Nepali Times
Nation
The melting Himalaya



When it was put up at 5,300m at Chomolungma Base Camp in April, this was the highest-ever photo exhibition in the world. 'Changing Landscapes' examines, through dramatic before-and-after photographs, the impact of climate change on the Himalaya.

Organised by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) the exhibition has also toured Stockholm and Barcelona. The loss of ice cover and glacial retreat in the span of 50 years is so stark that it converts those still sceptical about the effects of global warming.

"Visitors to the exhibition were obviously shocked to see how rapidly these glaciers are melting," says ICIMOD's Nonna Lamponen. During the week-long outdoor exhibition at the Hanuman Dhoka temple complex at Kathmandu Durbar Square, mountain panoramas that were taken by a team of scientists in the 1950s will be displayed and compared to photographs taken in 2007.

Mountain geographer Alton Byers, who was part of that team, revisited many of the sites of the original photographs and took replicates that illustrate the changes in the landscape.

"Only 50 years have passed between the old and new photographs and the changes are dramatic," Byers told Nepali Times. Many small glaciers at low altitudes have disappeared entirely and many larger ones have lost around half of their volume. Some have formed huge glacial lakes at the foot of the glacier, threatening downstream communities.

The exhibition is part of ICIMOD's 25th anniversary celebrations, and will run from 2-8 December 2008. It is free of charge and will be open daily from 10AM to 5PM.

SEE ALSO:
'Himalayan meltdown', #371

ERWIN SCHNEIDER

MELTDOWN: The Imja Glacier in 1954 and again in 2006 from the same spot. Note the large lake that has formed by ice melting due to global warming. By 2006, the Imja lake was around 1 km2 in size, with an average depth of 42 meter, and contained more than 35 million m3 of water. The Imja Glacier is retreating at a rate of 74 meter per year, and is thought to be the fastest retreating glacier in the Himalayas. The thin cover of debris on this glacier may actually have accelerated surface melting, as heat is transferred to the ice below. Because of the unconsolidated nature of the lake's terminal moraine dam, the risk of a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) may be high.
ALTON BYERS
RECEDING SNOWLINE: The first panorama taken in 1954 of Ama Dablam from Dingboche and again in 2006 shows the snowline has receded more than 100 metres on the mountains. Ama Dablam (6856 m) and Imja Valley show the effects of warming temperatures The dramatic melting of glaciers and ice witnessed in lower altitudes is often buffered by the low temperatures typical of extreme altitudes. However, with the continuing rising temperatures even the high altitude glaciers are now more susceptible, and continue to shrink.

READ ALSO:
Climactic change - FROM ISSUE #427 (28 NOV 2008 - 04 DEC 2008)



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