Glaciers expand as Asia heats up

Normally when the temperature rises, the ice will melt away.

Normally when the temperature rises, the ice will melt away.

That is why a collection of glaciers in the southeast Himalayas 9,000 years ago has puzzled many scientists. While most glaciers in Central Asia gradually recede under hotter summer temperatures, these glaciers expand from 1 to 6 kilometers.

A new geologist study BYU Summer Rupper has connected a series of events around this sudden expansion of glaciers.

'The stronger monsoon is thought to be the cause of this phenomenon. Our research shows that heavy snowfall from the monsoon impact is only the cause of 30% of the glacier expansion , "Rupper said. She published her findings in the September issue of Quanternary Research.

When the summer climate in Central Asia warms about 6 degrees Celsius, the changing weather cycle has drawn more clouds to the Southeast Himalayas. The shadow of the clouds created a mass of air with colder temperatures.

Temperature also decreases when high winds push more steam into this already wet area.

Picture 1 of Glaciers expand as Asia heats up Photo 1 of Glaciers expand as Asia heats up Professor BYU Summer Rupper is studying the field in the glacier of Goernergrat in Switzerland. Her latest research shows that a group of Himalayan glaciers has grown more despite a significant increase in temperature. (Photo: Brigham Young University)

The story of this glacier cluster emphasizes the important difference between 'climate change' and 'global warming'.

Rupper said: 'Even if the average temperature is increasing in the region or globally, what happens in a certain location depends on the characteristics of the area.'

These findings are based on the basis that Rupper developed to replace the notion that glaciers melt when temperatures are high. Her method is based on the energy balance between glaciers and a variety of climatic factors, including wind, humidity, rain, steam, and clouds.

Gerald Roe and Alan Gillespie of Washington University are co-authors of the new study. Understanding the reaction of glaciers in the past to climate change will help Rupper predict the region's water supply in the coming decades. She and her colleagues are in the process of determining the amount of water in the Indus River coming from a network of large glaciers in the agricultural valley of India and Pakistan.

'Their research could be used to help assess glacial and hydrological changes in Earth's most populated region. The area has begun to feel the obvious impact of man-made climate change, 'said Lewis Owen, a geologist at the University of Cincinnati.


Summer Rupper, Gerard Roe, Alan Gillespie.Spatial patterns of Holocene glacier advance and retreat in Central Asia.Quaternary Research, 2009;DOI: 10.1016 / j.yqres.2009.03.007