For years, scientists have worried about the impact of climate change in the invaluable Himalayan region. Recent research seems to confirm worries that a warming world is melting one of Earth's most iconic, not to mention tallest, summits: Mount Everest.
The research was presented this weekduring a conference co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Cancun, Mexico. Co-authored by Sudeep Thakuri of the Graduate School of Earth, Environment and Biodiversity at the University of Milan in Italy, the study says glaciers on Mount Everest have decreased by 13 percent over the past 50 years, while the snowline has shifted upward several hundred feet.
Man-made greenhouse gasses may be responsible for these changes, though a direct link has not yet been ascertained, Thakuri said in statements released by the AGU.
Thakuri's team used satellite imagery and topographic maps to track the region's glacial movements, and used hydro-meteorological data from the Nepal Climate Observatory and Nepal's Department of Hydrology to examine temperature and precipitation changes. Their data shows that the temperature in the Everest region has increased by sightly more than 1 degree Fahrenheit, with a 3.9 decrease in precipitation during the pre-monsoon and winter months in the past two decades.
Discovery notes that even small increases in temperature can have large consequences on the mountain, where melting glaciers could lead to flooding, rock slides and avalanches that could damage the ecosystem.