Himalayan ice can fool climate studies

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Science  27 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6229, pp. 1404-1405
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6229.1404

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Many glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating, but some glaciers in the Karakoram Range, at the geographic intersection of India, Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan, appear to be on the march. Climate-change skeptics sometimes use these advancing glaciers to argue that Himalayan glaciers are healthy. But new research based on satellite images and on-the-ground records shows that what looks like a steady advance is in many cases just a temporary surge. And even though a surging glacier appears to be expanding, it may be losing mass, its upper reaches collapsing even as its snout thickens temporarily. Such surging glaciers may say little about climate change.

  • * Jane Qiu is a writer in Beijing. Her trip to Kathmandu was supported by a SciDev.Net fellowship.