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Earth Science

Black Soot May Be Aiding Melting In the Himalayas 336

Posted by kdawson
from the not-yeti dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Himalayas, home to some 10,000 glaciers, are the main source of replenishment to lakes, streams, and some of the continent's mightiest rivers, on which millions of people depend for their water supplies. Since the 1960s, the acreage covered by Himalayan glaciers has declined by more than 20 percent with a rate of warming twice the global average over the past 30 years. Now Live Science reports that tiny particles of pollution known as 'black carbon' — and not heat-trapping greenhouse gases — may be causing much of the rapid melting of glaciers in the Himalayas. 'Tibet's glaciers are retreating at an alarming rate,' says James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. 'Black soot is probably responsible for as much as half of the glacial melt, and greenhouse gases are responsible for the rest.' The circulation of the atmosphere in the region causes much of the soot-laden air to 'pile up' against the Himalayas. The soot mixes with other dust from nearby deserts, creating a massive brown cloud visible from space that absorbs incoming solar radiation. As this layer heats up in the Himalayan foothills, it rises and enhances the seasonal northward flow of humid monsoon winds, forcing moisture and hot air up the slopes of the mountain range."
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Black Soot May Be Aiding Melting In the Himalayas

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  • !millions (Score:3, Informative)

    by should_be_linear (779431) on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:09AM (#30511132)
    continent's mightiest rivers, on which millions of people depend for their water supplies.

    It is more like hundreds of millions.
  • (A + !B) != (A + B)

  • Uh oh (Score:3, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959) on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:25AM (#30511226) Journal

    How long until the Abominable Smog Man evolves?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:25AM (#30511232)

    ...which links to a god damn diagram, not an actual picture from space of a massive brown cloud. Way to fail submitter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:27AM (#30511252)

    i wasn't sure to believe until i saw the proof:

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/mmg/media/images/himalayan_glaciers_h.jpg

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:30AM (#30511274) Homepage Journal

    We have already noticed problems with soot [nytimes.com]. In fact I recall reading books about terraforming where soot was sprinkled on an ice cap, so the idea is pretty old.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ArcherB (796902)

      We have already noticed problems with soot [nytimes.com]. In fact I recall reading books about terraforming where soot was sprinkled on an ice cap, so the idea is pretty old.

      The article you are referring to is HERE [denisdutton.com]. It was in response to Global Cooling, which as we all know was false and THANK GOD we didn't do anything about it. Regardless of our arrogance back then, science in the 70's was no where near where it is today. If we had acted on our ignorant assumptions, it surely would have led to an enormous disaster today.

      I wonder what we'll be saying about Global Warming in 35 years.

      • by Smallpond (221300)

        Fortunately, we did do something about the scattered theories and reports of global cooling in the 60s and 70s. We put more money into climate science to find out what was really happening.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ArcherB (796902)

          Fortunately, we did do something about the scattered theories and reports of global cooling in the 60s and 70s. We put more money into climate science to find out what was really happening.

          Yes, because THIS time, we are right. All those other times, we were wrong. So, give us $40,000,000,000,000/yr, control of your lives and we'll fix it for ya.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by zippthorne (748122)

            Is.. isn't...

            Either way, Many of us are already doing our part regardless while continuing to be skeptical. I, myself, have reduced my carbon footprint to a mere fraction of one of the more prominent GW-action advocates, former US vice president Al Gore, Jr! That includes all of the goods and services I consume as well, and I did it all without buying any bullshit "carbon offset" scams.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:32AM (#30511284)

    'Black soot is probably responsible for as much as half of the glacial melt, and greenhouse gases are responsible for the rest.'

    Becomes:

    Now Live Science reports that tiny particles of pollution known as 'black carbon' — and not heat-trapping greenhouse gases (...)

    Quite shameless. I am almost impressed by the gall of the submitter...

  • Don't all apocalypse movies start with ominous scientific discoveries in remote geographical locations?

    I hereby predict that within 4 or 5 years the UN will unveil a scheme to Save Mankind from, ummmmmmm, a passing neutron star. The scheme will feature a 1000 MT hydrogen bomb, spaceships, and short wave radio. Nicolas Cage, some hot babe, and a cute kid will survive...on Mars!

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I hereby predict that within 4 or 5 years the UN will unveil a scheme to Save Mankind from, ummmmmmm, a passing neutron star. The scheme will feature a 1000 MT hydrogen bomb, spaceships, and short wave radio. Nicolas Cage, some hot babe, and a cute kid will survive...on Mars!

      And both Nicolas Cage and the kid will be Wizards.

      The babe will just be hot, which, unlike wizardry, gets things done in a prompt manner.

    • by rlp (11898)

      Don't all apocalypse movies start with ominous scientific discoveries in remote geographical locations?

      I hereby predict that within 4 or 5 years the UN will unveil a scheme to Save Mankind from, ummmmmmm, a passing neutron star. The scheme will feature several hundred billion dollars given to UN bureaucrats, corrupt NGO's and various tinpot dictators and tyrants

      Fixed it for ya.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      If you can get Michael Bay to direct this UN effort, we at NBC/Universal will fund it.
  • I'll admit I didn't read the article, but I don't understand how this is supposed to work.
    If glaciers are responsible for the water supply, then if they don't melt, would these regions end up with no water at all?
    Shouldn't these areas be depending on current precipitation for their water?

    Or to put it another way, if these regions are depending on glacier melt from water accumulated hundreds of thousands of years ago, aren't they going to be screwed sooner or later? Either the melt isn't high enough and the

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I believe they're supposed to act as a buffer. They accumulate water during the wet season, and release it during the dry, in roughly equal amounts. If they melt faster than they accrete, then you get more water during the dry season for a while (while the glaciers are close to their original size), then it starts to taper off as the increased melting is offset by the lesser amount of ice. Eventually, the glaciers are reduced to virtually nil, and you get little or nothing after that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Galciers are essentially a water battery. There is very heavy seasonal precipitation high in the mountains. This precipitation becomes glacier ice, which slides downward and melts.
      The sliding process and melting however happens perennial, and thus turns high seasonal percipitation into a dependable perennial water source. Without glaciers, all the water simply comes gushing downhill - which can be very damaging on its own, and leaves the people without a dependable water source for the rest of the year.

      Ther

  • underneath we will have a shitstorm of politically biased comments

    so i offer a third option, to climate change doubters and climate change believers:

    1. who fucking cares whose fault it is

    political recrimination gets us nowhere. its cold in the house because someone left the window open? ok, so you're going to sit there and scream at each other over who opened the window? here's a new idea: how about someone demonstrating actual responsibility and instead actually stand the fuck up, walk over, and close the fucking window: NO MATTER WHO LEFT IT OPEN

    2. who fucking cares if we are heating up or cooling down or not changing

    the fact is, we live here, and we are interested in controlling the thermostat. if it gets too cold, do something to turn it up. if it gets to hot, do something to turn it down. we are homo sapiens, this what we do: we do not adapt to our environment, we adapt our environment to us. we do not grow fur, we make clothes. we do not enter torpor at midday, we invent air conditioning

    if you say we shouldn't mess with the weather, you are by extension denying the fact that we already are having an effect on the climate. so we might as well get involved with twiddling with the environment ON PURPOSE, because the notion that 6.5 billion humans can magically have no effect at all is a completely absurd premise on your part

    this environmental attitude is the engineer's approach. fuck all of you capitalists, politicians, activists and hysterical whiners. the engineer will prevail here, because only we have the solution to what the rest of you simply bicker about

    we need scientifically, factually sound well-researched methods for forcing change on our planet on purpose. and then we'll fix your fucking problem. something like seeding the dead zones of the ocean with iron

    lets put it this way: make believe, for the moment, for the sake of argument, regardless of your beliefs, that

    1. the earth is actually heating up
    2. it is doing so because of nature, not man-made reasons

    ok, well what are we supposed to do, just accept rising sea levels, melting glaciers and the sahara desert growing 25%?

    no, we artificially introduce methods for cooling the earth down. we do this, #1, for selfish reasons, but also for #2: a preservation of current species and ecosystems, as a side effect. are you going to let the amazon dry up because you don't like the idea of man fiddling with the environment?

    yes, the planet could continue to evolve new species without human intervention. but what is really going to happen is that this planet is going to become a museum, under human supervision, of the current catalog of species and ecosystems that have evolved so far. why? because we want to fucking live here, that's why

    so, for the deniers in opposition to supposition #1 above: if you don't believe the earth is heating up, you still have to admit the earth has had historic swings in climate, and that we earthlings will have to intervene at some point, correct?

    and for the believers in man-made change in opposition to supposition #2 above: you believe that climate change is caused by man, you have to admit that to fix the problem we have to do it PROACTIVELY. please don't try to sell me the moronic bullshit that 6.5 billion humans can live on this planet like ghosts. this is a different kind of denial than those who deny climate change, but no less foolish

    imagine that: no pointless recriminations and blame games, no living in denial and sticking your head in the sand

    commence with the retarded partisan bickering anyway. meanwhile, us engineers will roll up our sleeves and will actually go and fix your fucking problem while you political assholes do nothing but bicker

    more action, less "hot air"

    • by Nutria (679911)

      and instead actually stand the fuck up, walk over, and close the fucking window

      Except that closing a window is a hell of a lot cheaper, easier and faster to do than fundamentally restructuring a world economy.

      ok, well what are we supposed to do, just accept rising sea levels, melting glaciers and the sahara desert growing 25%?

      Yes, as a matter of fact.

      and that we earthlings will have to intervene at some point, correct?

      The Earth is Really Big, and we are Really Small.

      • the ability to plunge the entire planet into winter: just detonate all of our nuclear warheads

        we won't do that. i'm simply countering your supposition that the earth is large and we are small. we WERE once so small as you believe. we aren't anymore

        we're simply not going to accept the next ice age or the next sahara age. we're going to actively prevent it. when the amazon is drying up, and the taiga is melting, and the streets of london and shanghai are as venice, we will find the industrial, scientific and

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      we do not grow fur, we make clothes. we do not enter torpor at midday, we invent air conditioning

      You've not been to Spain, I gather.

      We call both solutions "Pecho lobo" and "Siesta"

    • by vadim_t (324782) on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:56AM (#30511466) Homepage

      1. who fucking cares whose fault it is

      political recrimination gets us nowhere. its cold in the house because someone left the window open?

      Bad example. It's not who left the window open, it's determining that the problem is an open window, as opposed to for instance running the air conditioner in winter. Because fixing the problem the right way (closing the window, or shutting down the AC) is much easier than doing it the wrong way (adding heaters for instance).

      If the problem is too much CO2, then it's very possible the easiest fix is to reduce the amount of CO2 instead of starting some sort of planet-wide engineering project.

      2. who fucking cares if we are heating up or cooling down or not changing

      How is your engineer going to fix the problem without knowing what it is? The solutions to "too cold", "too hot", and "not changing when it should" are different. And depending on the amount of change the scale of your engineering project is going to change quite a lot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spafbi (324017)
      Wow... here, have some Prozac. I've often wondered why folks on Slashdot... Nevermind. I was just about to start ranting about how folks here on Slashdot rant as if they're actually going to change someone else's opinion.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      No one is willing to act now because the issue hasn't become significant enough to have a real effect on anyone with a pocketbook. When/if it becomes serious enough to start flooding New York City, you can bet we'll act. And before anyone says "But by then it will be too late," note that it's NEVER too late. Humans are the most adaptive species on the planet. When push comes to shove, we will find a way. Sure, it may be more sensible to act now, but we are also a very conservative species that only adapts w

    • You go first. We follow. ;)

    • by dr2chase (653338)
      Problem is that people believe things for reasons. These reasons include:
      • Stupid liberals believe in human-caused GW, I hate stupid liberals, therefore I don't believe in HCGW.
      • Stupid conservatives are always wrong, I know they're wrong about this, too (equal opportunity politics here).
      • You'll take my SUV from me when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.
      • Solar panels??!!!? The condo board/zoning laws/homeowners association Will Not Allow.
      • Give up (well, drastically reduce) beef and pork? Are you kidding?
      • No
    • by foobsr (693224)
      Partly, I agree. Interestingly (well, after all, this will be a real big global business), the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has recently come up with a geo-engineering approach [imeche.org].

      CC.
      • mod parent up (Score:3, Interesting)

        the link says it all

        there are engineers who get stuff done, and there are whining ignorant morons who take up space. that's pretty much the entire human race

        technical universities: start assembling the geoengineering major programs of study now, to get a jump on the upcoming scholastic trend

        liberal arts universities: start a program on reality tv programs. pffft

    • by louks (1075763)

      I do have a couple of small problems with your comments, let's begin:

      here we have a nugget of scientific observation

      Well, we actually have TWO scientific observations that form a single inference, which if you remember your scientific method, is still capable of being fallible. I'm not making a statement either way on this one, just reminding you that this article is about an inference, not an observation.

      political recrimination gets us nowhere. its cold in the house because someone left the window open? ok, so you're going to sit there and scream at each other over who opened the window? here's a new idea: how about someone demonstrating actual responsibility and instead actually stand the fuck up, walk over, and close the fucking window: NO MATTER WHO LEFT IT OPEN

      OK, there's something here with which I agree, and something that bothers me about the current political climate. What the recent Copenhagen confere

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by argStyopa (232550)

      "ok, well what are we supposed to do, just accept rising sea levels, melting glaciers and the sahara desert growing 25%?"

      Yep. Like much in real life, you accept it, deal with it, and move on.

      How many problems (environmental, for example) have been made WORSE by someone just trying to do "something" (for dogmatic or political reasons) without understanding the how, the why, or the details?

      Ultimately, no, I really DON'T care.
      Oh no, the glaciers are melting...does that affect me? Nope.
      Oh no, the polar bears

      • that is, a post that has to loudly and voluminously announce how much they don't care

        paraphrasing shakespeare: methinks the lady doth protest too much

        hey, genius, if you didn't care... YOU WOULDN'T POST

        proof of not caring is not commenting, not being here

        there really are people who don't care about this debate. those people are playing videogames or twiddling on facebook right now. if they saw this thread, they wouldn't even roll their eyes (too much caring in that effort), they'd just click away, truly uni

  • Shoddy PR at work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Qbertino (265505) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:18AM (#30511666)

    The linked diagramm is a dead giveaway that this is more of a PR stunt than usefull scientific research. No matter what the verdict, fact is: we are putting to much polution into the atmosphere and we need to stop. That's a fact, and no lobbying otherwise will change it.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      There has been a sharp increase in pro-AGW climate articles since climate gate. Funny, that...
  • the acreage covered by Himalayan glaciers

    "Acreage"? Really? What's wrong with "surface area"? Should we now call length "footage", and volume "gallonage"?

    At the very least use SI square meterage. ;-)

  • by Breccia (785630)
    Back in 1970, at Resolute Bay in the Canadian high arctic, I had a discussion with two scientists about global warming -- back then, the Arctic Ocean had increased in temperature by 2.7 degrees over the previous 40 years!!! One identified mechanism was soot from the atmosphere, a byproduct of combustion and to a lesser extent, volcanic ash. The amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of an entire ocean by this amount is staggering...

    This soot reduces the albedo of the snow and ice, resulting
  • This is more relevant to western society:

    Pollution Clouds over the U.S. [bitstomp.com]

    Glacial Melting in Greenland [bitstomp.com]

    We have to act fast! To get started, you can get a great deal on LED lightbulbs through my eBay storefront!
  • that the Chinese put a railway right through the middle of Tibet either. [wikipedia.org]
  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:33PM (#30514078)

    Thoughtful people are slowly, slowly awakening to the idea that the climate alarmists predicting doom for the planet's climate may be less than completely right. Previously, the melting of the himalayan glaciers was positively, definitely, absolutely, without doubt, guaranteed attributable 100 percent to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. The simple fact is that nothing technical that supports the AGW theory that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from "pre-industrial" levels to the current level has caused (or even contributed to) any measurable amount of planetary warming. Similarly, there is nothing to support the popular idea that some arbitrary co2 concentration is necessary to maintain our current planetary climate conditions. Our current knowledge of the things that might affect the Earth's climate, and the magnitude of their effect, is primitive, and dominated scientifically by the equivalent of 15th-century flat-earthers. Go to the NSIDC (http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/) website and read their 'news and analysis' to see how they spin every little uptick in the arctic ice cover. Would you trust agenda-driven people like that to tell the unvarnished scientific truth about...anything? They are the technical equivalent of eugenics people excavating an african anthropological site. If the Earth's climate continues to cool (as it has for the last two years) they will keep spinning it as validation of their models, right up until their funding dries up and they have to pull the power plug on their computer and website. Anyone (Al Gore comes to mind) who claims to know all, or even any, of the answers to global climate change is being blatantly dishonest. It was hysterically funny to see record low temperatures and snow visit Copenhagen at the same time that planetary leaders were meeting there to discuss global warming.

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