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Projected glacial area change by 2050

There has been an almost worldwide recession of glaciers since the last ice age, including within the Himalayas. Most Himalayan glaciers have both retreated and lost mass since the mid-19th century, with some exceptions in the Karakoram and northwestern Himalayas. Most models project substantial glacial mass and area losses in the coming decades for most parts of the Hindu Kush Himalayas. At the upper river basin scale, the Indus, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Salween and Mekong are projected to lose considerable glacial area by 2050. The greatest relative reductions in glacial area are likely to be for the Salween (–44 to –67%) and Mekong (–39 to –68%), as their current glacial areas are the smallest. For the Indus basin, a change in glacier extent ranging from –20 to –28% is projected. Although the Indus basin shows the smallest decrease in percentage because it has the largest glaciated area, the absolute loss is likely to be the greatest in this basin. Changes in glacier area in the Ganges and Brahmaputra basins show similar trends (–35% to –45%). Even the glaciers in the highest mountains of the world will not escape the effects of climate change. For example, even if today’s level of emissions are greatly reduced, glaciers within the Everest region (Dudh Koshi basin, Nepal) are projected to lose between, on average, 39% of their ice by 2050 and around 83% by 2100. For extreme RCPs, the average loss is projected to be much higher. Temperature increases will be the most important determining factor driving glacial mass loss in this region. As temperatures rise, more glaciated area will be exposed to above-zero temperatures. These warmer temperatures will cause the glaciers to melt and will also mean that more precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow, resulting in melting ice not being replenished.

Year: 2015

From collection: The Himalayan Climate and Water Atlas

Cartographer: Riccardo Pravettoni

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