Mount Everest’s Glaciers will be Gone by 2100

A study published in the journal The Cryosphere by European Geosciences Union, states that 70~99% of the glaciers in Mount Everest are predicted to melt by 2100.

What’s taking us from a 70% to a 99% reduction? Our action (or inaction) against global warming.

The group of international researchers studied glaciers in the Dudh Koshi basin, home to some of the world’s highest mountain peaks. They applied glacier trends to a computer model with climate change scenarios, altering conditions such as temperature and precipitation. They found that even a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will still cause 70% of glaciers to melt, and a business as usual scenario can result up to 99% glacier loss by the end of this century. Their results were not unexpected but rather reinforce the need to act on climate.

What’s important to notice here is that glaciers react very sensitively to rising temperatures. Due to global warming, some might think that precipitation will increase and as a result more snow will accumulate on Mount Everest. However the speed of new snow falling and pilling up is actually slower than the speed of the glaciers melting. In other words, increases in precipitation are insufficient to offset the increased glacier melting— so eventually the glaciers will disappear.

Another problem we encounter with climate change is a higher freezing level. The freezing level is the altitude where the temperature is at 0ºC (the freezing point of water). Currently, the freezing level is between 3200m in January and 5500m in August. In 2100, it is expected to increase by 800~1,200m. This will reduce snow accumulation and melt glaciers in those altitudes.

What does this mean for you? Melted glaciers have the power to destroy dams, causing catastrophic floods in coastal areas. In addition as glaciers retreat, there will be less fresh water for people in mountain regions who rely on streams resourced from glaciers. Insufficient water is also detrimental to agriculture and hydropower generation.

Uncertainties remain in this research and further studies should be completed but climate change threats are real and impact farmers to mountaineers and beach side residents.

Seoyoung Kim, Intern