Himalayan glaciers actually gaining ice, space scans show

An inconvenient truth

A new study of survey data gleaned from space has shown a vast region of Himalayan glaciers is actually gaining ice steadily, mystifying climate scientists who had thought the planet's "third pole" to be melting.

The study was carried out by comparing two sets of space data, the first gathered by instruments aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 2000 and the second by the French SPOT5 satellite in 2008. The results were unequivocal. Across the targeted 5,615km2 region of the Karakorum mountains lying on the Chinese border with India and Pakistan, the glaciers had gained substantial amounts of mass by the time the second survey was carried out. Satellite pictures had previously shown the glaciers there spreading to cover more area, but some climate scientists had argued that they might nonetheless be losing ice by becoming thinner: this has now been disproven.

“This is a solid, high-grade measurement,” glaciologist Graham Cogley commented, reviewing the paper published in Nature Geoscience. The study was led by Julie Gardelle of Grenoble uni in France.

The melting or non-melting of the high Asian glaciers provides key underpinnings to climate models and sea-level forecasts and is thus crucial to the climate-change/global-warming debate. However it's actually very difficult to find out what's happening up in most of the valleys of the "third pole", as they are extremely hostile and inaccessible environments. This has led in recent years to attempts to get a proper handle on the situation using space surveys. As in this case, some of these new improved measurements have provided surprising results: a recent survey by the GRACE [Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment] satellites showed that overall the third pole appears not to be losing any mass at all.

The new discoveries are in sharp contrast to the general narrative until recent times, which had assumed that the Asian glaciers were melting away rapidly. As recently as 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change formally predicted that all the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035: this was later found to be based on a bogus study issued by the hard-green campaigning group WWF. The IPCC retracted the claim, but stuck to its assertion that rapid melting is taking place. ®

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