Glacier lakes have increased 50% in last 30 years: Study

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Sep 01, 2020, 01.43 PM(IST)

Glacier lakes Photograph:( Reuters )

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The glacier melt has increased as the Earth's temperature has increased one degree Celsius since preindustrial times and the temperature in high-mountain areas have increased twice that pace

Glaciers have been melting increasingly due to climate change, and it was widely believed that they end up in oceans upon melting. However, recent studies have found that'll meltwater does not go into the oceans.

The volume of lakes formed by glacier's meltwater has increased to 50 per cent in the last 30 years, new satellite images and data has revealed.

"We have known that not all meltwater is making it into the oceans immediately," lead author Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said in a statement.

"But until now there were no data to estimate how much was being stored in lakes or groundwater."

The study was published in Nature Climate Change on Monday. Shugar believes the study will help other scientists and researchers in identifying hazards to communities that live near these unstable lakes. The study can also help improve the accuracy of the estimates in sea level.

Also read: Greenland ice has shrunk beyond return, study finds

The glacier lakes are highly unstable and pose a threat to communities living near it, as they are dammed by ice or sediment composed of loose rock and debris. The water from these lakes can cause heavy floods.

Known as glacial lake outbursts, this kind of flooding has been responsible for thousands of deaths in the last century, as well as the destruction of villages, infrastructure and livestock, according to the study, published in Nature Climate Change.

The most recent recorded incident was a glacial lake outburst that washed through the Hunza Valley in Pakistan in May.

The other main sources of sea level rise are ice sheets and the expansion of ocean water as it warms.

"In the past 100 years, 35 percent of global sea-level rises came from glacier melting," Anders Levermann, climate professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact told media.

The glacier melt has increased as the Earth's temperature has increased one degree Celsius since preindustrial times and the temperature in high-mountain areas have increased twice that pace.

The recent study is based on based on 250,000 scenes from NASA's Landsat satellite missions. Through these images, it has been estimated that the current glacial lakes volume at more than 150 cubic kilometres (37 cubic miles), equivalent to one-third the volume of Lake Erie in the United States or twice the volume of Lake Geneva.

Earlier this year, the UN Development Programme had also estimated a threat to almost seven million people from the 3,000 glacial lakes that have formed in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region.

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