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Earth Science

New Photos Show 'Devastating' Ice Loss On Everest 895

Posted by timothy
from the heatin'-up-the-whole-outdoors dept.
Simmeh writes "The BBC reports on new photos of the Himalayas taken from exactly the same position as ones from 1929 and compares the ice coverage. The Asia Society, which did the groundwork, are quoted as saying, 'If the present rate of melting continues, many of these glaciers will be severely diminished by the middle of this century.' I guess the previous claim wasn't too unrealistic."
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New Photos Show 'Devastating' Ice Loss On Everest

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  • by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:47AM (#32947630)

    But won't this make it easier for AGW denialists to climb Everest?

    • News Flash! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:03AM (#32947696)

      About 10k years ago, there was glacier over a mile thick right where I am sitting.

      Must have been all those SUV driving woolly mammoth bastards!

      • by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:10AM (#32947722) Homepage
        And we also know that temperatures are moving towards a climate singularity just like the technology singularity, changing at ever faster speeds due to natural causes.
      • Re:News Flash! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by danerthomas (1633403) <drt@mac.com> on Monday July 19, 2010 @05:52AM (#32948650)
        When you live in an area such as Stockholm where you see direct evidence of the most recent ice age and post-glacial rebound it makes you wonder just how much of this warming trend is anthropogenic. What percentage of the information here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age [wikipedia.org] must we ignore in order to make our current interglacial period all our fault? How conceited do we have to be in order to come to the conclusion that we can: A) Determine the optimal level of glaciation and, B) Determine the means by which to stabilize the climate of the earth so as to maintain this level? Don't get me wrong, I commute by bike as often as possible, didn't have more than 2 kids, drive a car that gets over 30 mpg (and drive it less than 6000 miles a year), recycle as much as possible, purchase locally grown and ecologically produced food and in general, try to tread lightly. I think I do all of these things for the right reasons, but I'm not under the illusion that my doing so is going to prevent global warming or "save the earth".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by biryokumaru (822262)

          Ah yes, recycling [cei.org]... Didn't Penn and Teller do an episode [youtube.com] on that?

          And what does having fewer kids have to do with anything? Are you trying to breed "ecological concern" out of the species in favor of "religious fundamentalism that doesn't believe in birth control and doesn't give a crap about the planet?" Because that's what happening when you have less kids.

          • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Lumpy (12016) on Monday July 19, 2010 @07:55AM (#32949110) Homepage

            Yup most sane people understand that recycling at home is useless (in the separate your crap containers to feel good about yourself) Recycling in general IS effective. Lead recycling is hugely successful and has significantly reduced the need for mining new lead. Steel and metals recycling is hugely sucessful, almost all foundries use scrap metal in their furnaces. Plastics recycling makes us that horribly overpriced plastic decking that the rich people use to feel good on their new 6800 sq foot 8 bedroom home for 2, but there are other things that are real uses like fleece.. just don't get it near open flame as that crap goes up faster than gasoline soaked rags...

            Composting at home is recycling that does work well.

            Recycling works, it is that feel good, separate your trash, recycling at the curb that is fake. In fact more could be done to help the environment by having these feel good yuppie environmentalists STOP drinking bottled water. Bottled water is really bad for the environment as most bottling plants destroy the aquifer for the area they tap into for the real spring water.... The rest is just city water put in plastic bottles that are not recycled if you don't take the cap and ring off. because the makers are too stupid to make the cap and bottle out of the same plastic. Well not too stupid, it's on purpose... Cheapest price is far more important that recyclability.

          • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Culture20 (968837) on Monday July 19, 2010 @09:14AM (#32949824)

            Are you trying to breed "ecological concern" out of the species in favor of "religious fundamentalism that doesn't believe in birth control and doesn't give a crap about the planet?" Because that's what happening when you have less kids.

            I wasn't aware that ecological concern was a genetic trait. I also wasn't aware that religious people "don't give a crap about the planet". I suppose the term "stewards of the Earth" comes from the UFO-origins crowd.

        • Re:News Flash! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Vintermann (400722) on Monday July 19, 2010 @08:39AM (#32949472) Homepage

          When you live in an area such as Stockholm where you see direct evidence of the most recent ice age and post-glacial rebound it makes you wonder just how much of this warming trend is anthropogenic.

          Ah, yes, that's the problem with climate scientists. They don't appreciate the personal impact of seeing scouring marks on mountains, so they forget that there's been an ice age recently!

          Uh, NO. No one ever said "the current interglacial period was all our fault". Ice ages and interglacials are caused by Milankovich cycles, small variations in the earth's orbit and axial tilt.

          It's just one thing: those orbital anomalies cause only a very, very small change in temperature by themselves. Not nearly enough to move the earth in and out of an ice age. Yet they have been found to be an excellent explanation for them. Why is that?

          Because of climate feedbacks. As white ice sheets melt and turns into dark ocean, the sun absorbs more of the energy striking it. As the oceans warm, their capacity to dissolve gases is reduced, causing them to release higher amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Causing further warming, causing further melting. The earth keeps warming, but all things that become warmer emit more heat radiation. Eventually it becomes hot enough that the heat radiation out is in balance with the additional energy absorbed. But by then the tiny change in temperature from an orbital change has turned an ice age into an interglacial.

          I recommend you start read Uppsalainitiativet [blogspot.com] since you presumably speak Swedish.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vux984 (928602)

        About 10k years ago, there was glacier over a mile thick right where I am sitting.

        Must have been all those SUV driving woolly mammoth bastards!

        I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to see us avoid another ice age if possible. I don't much relish the thought of having to leave everything behind to flee a mile think sheet of ice. Some twit telling me its a 'natural cycle' isn't going to make that any easier. ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by slater.jay (1839748)
          Today: Look out! There's a glacier on the horizon!
          Tomorrow: Look out! There's a glacier on the horizon!
          ...
          Slightly more than a year later: Look out! The glacier is almost here!

          (Using 20-30 meters per day as a speed, per Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]).
  • by DWMorse (1816016) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:49AM (#32947642) Homepage

    We needed something to put the kegs in to stay cold.

    We needed something epic.

  • by drmerope (771119) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:59AM (#32947668)

    So we have a few photographs and the conclusion that the ice loss is devastating--despite no investigation as to whether the photographs were taken during the same day of the year nor as to what the internal variability is. But still, the editors immediately jump to the ice loss is devastating and that the mid-century prediction of the AR4 is right after all.

    Nonsense, the glaciers are monitored very closely and the loss-rates are calculated to be very slow. The AR4 prediction was, of course, the center of a big scandal because it was basically a fabrication, whereas the actual science is deep and gives several hundred years.

    • by thestuckmud (955767) on Monday July 19, 2010 @03:01AM (#32947958)
      "Nonsense"???

      We have a lot more than a few photographs supporting this. The worldwide retreat of glaciers [wikipedia.org] is well established and is know to acutely affect the Himalayas, potentially threatening water supplies for millions of people.

      Also, can you provide some sort of reference for your claim that the photos were taken in different seasons? I find this unlikely, since the regularity of the Monsoon storms and lengthy acclimatization process tend to force Everest climbers to focus their efforts during the same season each year. There are exceptions, but it is unlikely that Breashears would have intentionally chosen to retrace the old expeditions steps for documentary purposes off season.

      Finally, why focus on the erroneous report, when the correct prediction suggests dire consequences for millions of people who rely on the rivers fed by those glaciers. "Several hundred years" might seem like a long time, but it is a geological blink of an eye. We should be very concerned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aceticon (140883)

      You remind me about the story on slashdot a little while ago http://idle.slashdot.org/story/10/07/14/1235220/Given-Truth-the-Misinformed-Believe-Lies-More [slashdot.org]

      Clearly no amount of information will ever convince those who look at climate change as an "Us against Them" subject (it's all tribalism for them, logic has no bearing) instead of approaching it as a social/economic risk-cost analysis.

  • This makes sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by hopejr (995381) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:23AM (#32947790)
    Nepal's power is run from hydro installed by the Russians many years ago. The generators are on the rivers that contain run-off from the Himalayas. I used to live there ('99-'01) and there was enough problems with lack of water then for us to have many brown outs. But lately, friends over there have been telling me that the power has been out for weeks on end, with hospitals, etc, having to constantly run their diesel generators, increasing the already excessive amount of pollution in the air, especially around Kathmandu. They've been saying that it's because the rivers have had hardly any water in them, which is caused by the decreasing amount of ice on the mountains.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Delgul (515042)

      Well... If it melts at an alarming rate, should they not have had MORE water to drive those powerplants with? This proves nothing! If it proves anything at all, it is that there is less melting going on...

  • by kurokame (1764228) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:48AM (#32947900)

    Since it's inevitable that this will devolve into a bunch of AGW/anti-AGW trolling, let's get our facts straight.

    No one with any knowledge about the subject is disputing that climates change. The disputed points are that human-produced carbon dioxide is or is not a significant factor, that Al Gore does or does not have any clue what he's blabbing about, and that the green movement does or does not constitute anything more than lies and snake oil.

    Anthropogenic or not, climate change is a serious issue which affects the future of our species. The people who support (or object to) AGW by chanting an entrenched position over and over, and the people selling us snake oil as a "fix" are NOT helping. In fact, they're probably selling the future of humanity off in order to make a quick buck off of people who get their science from Twitter and Fox News.

    Slinging around words like "denialist" doesn't help a damn thing either. Have we forgotten Godwin's Law so quickly?

    With that said, the "before and after" photo trick is extremely passe. It is good for gulling the public, but little more since you only have two data points and are doing absolutely nothing to control for any of numerous confounding factors. It doesn't tell you crap about local conditions (pollution? construction? traffic? did someone just set off dynamite as an anti-avalanche measure?). It doesn't tell you about shorter-term cycles of climate variation (what's normal? was it unusually heavy in the "before" photo? was there more or less pollution historically? what about solar cycles?). It doesn't tell you about the cause of the climate trend if any exists, and it absolutely does not tell you a single bloody thing about the global situation.

    Nor is this "incontrovertible" proof all that clear. The saturation in the 1921 photo is such that it is very hard to compare the two photos directly; you would need to analyze each in detail including examining the depth in a given area, the seasonal and longer-term variations, the characteristics of the camera and film used in either photo...the list goes on. The "experts say" line is a bullshit maneuver pulled by journalists in order to make their craptastic statements of absolute truth seem like they have some authority behind them - in reality, it usually means that the journalist is aware that they don't have the means to back up what they're claiming. Three huzzahs for the terrible state of science journalism, eh? FUD and misinformation and more FUD is all you can expect.

    • by Tom (822) on Monday July 19, 2010 @05:42AM (#32948622) Homepage Journal

      Before you yell "get it right" to others, and then ramble on about "just two data points", how about reading TFA ?

      oh, look:

      He has not only followed in the footsteps of Mallory but also those of Italian photographer Vittorio Sella, whose work spanned the 19th and 20th Centuries.

      The result is a then-and-now series of photographs from Tibet, Nepal and near K2 in Pakistan - all of which show glaciers in retreat.

      It appears that there are lots more than just two data points. It's just the /. summary and maybe limited space or journalistic choice at the BBC that made them pick out only one specific picture set to show.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bazorg (911295)

      [...]No one with any knowledge about the subject is disputing that climates change. The disputed points are that human-produced carbon dioxide is or is not a significant factor[...]

      At the risk of writing the asshat post of the month here, I'd say that these news about the Everest are very significant for the politics of this climate change matter: if the governments of that region (representing more than 2 000 000 000 people) assume that it is the human factor that is causing the climate change that is depleting their drinking water resources, their position at the negotiating table with the other governments is likely to change.

      As an exercise of rhetoric, it is all very fine and dand

  • by jcochran (309950) on Monday July 19, 2010 @03:03AM (#32947968)

    Sigh. When the global warming people are able to explain just a couple of minor details, then and only then will I believe them. Here are a few little facts that tend to be conveniently omitted when global warming is mentioned.

    1. Yes, there is a definite positive correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures. Using ice core samples, tree growth rings, etc., this has been confirmed. But the fly in the ointment is that the CO2 levels *lag* the temperature changes by 40 to 50 years. Excuse me? The "cause" of the global warming happens "after" things warm up? That little datum all by its lonesome is rather hard to dispute.

    2. The major greenhouse gas in our atmosphere isn't CO2. It's H2O. Yup, plain old water. The effect of the CO2 is about 1 percent of the overall greenhouse effect. And of that 1%, mankind is contributing a much smaller percentage.

    3. There seems to be some viking farms being uncovered in Greenland. Yup, the glaciers are melting and in the process exposing abandoned farms. Hmm. Seems to me that if there were farms where there's currently glaciers, that would imply it being much warmer in the past.

    4. And finally, the polar ice on Mars seems to be also shrinking. Guess those probes we've sent there have had a massive effect on Mar's temperature as well.

    Seems to me that the global warming crowd have a bit of a secondary agenda running that has nothing what so ever to do with actual global warming. When the above independently verifiable but inconvenient little facts are explained, then I will consider the GW crowd to have done due diligence and be worth listening to. But until then, it's a transparent attempted power grab and quite frankly they can take their propaganda and stuff it into the nearest fireplace. Should make 'em quite happy since paper is carbon neutral and no fossil fuels would be used.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:08AM (#32948190)

      You would like to think that they get omitted, but your questions have been addressed.

      1. But the fly in the ointment is that the CO2 levels *lag* the temperature changes by 40 to 50 years.

      This has been answered [grist.org].

      2. The major greenhouse gas in our atmosphere isn't CO2. It's H2O.

      This has been answered too [grist.org].

      3. There seems to be some viking farms being uncovered in Greenland.

      They have covered this one as well [grist.org].

      4. And finally, the polar ice on Mars seems to be also shrinking.

      Wouldn't you know it, they forgot to omit this question [grist.org].

      Seems to me that the global warming crowd have a bit of a secondary agenda running that has nothing what so ever to do with actual global warming.

      That's right, because the big companies behind the denialist movement couldn't have any agenda!

      When the above independently verifiable but inconvenient little facts are explained, then I will consider the GW crowd to have done due diligence and be worth listening to.

      So will you change your opinion now, or just ignore all this and move on to other pesky facts that the so called "warmers" have allegedly failed to mention.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jcupitt65 (68879)

      This is a standard list of objections, all of which are addressed by every "top ten climate myths" list every science magazine has ever published.

      For example, here's the New Scientist (the UK equivalent of Scientific American) list:

      http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11462-climate-change-a-guide-for-the-perplexed.html [newscientist.com]

      It answers all your points (I think) and several others as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Yes, there is a definite positive correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures. Using ice core samples, tree growth rings, etc., this has been confirmed. But the fly in the ointment is that the CO2 levels *lag* the temperature changes by 40 to 50 years. Excuse me? The "cause" of the global warming happens "after" things warm up? That little datum all by its lonesome is rather hard to dispute.

      The whole reason why GW is perceived as so dangerous is that it is a positive feedback loop - warming up means more CO2 means more warming up. Historically, some other reason for warming (e.g. Sun) would also trigger that cycle, so no surprise there.

      The major greenhouse gas in our atmosphere isn't CO2. It's H2O. Yup, plain old water. The effect of the CO2 is about 1 percent of the overall greenhouse effect.

      H2O is in equilibrium - if you add more to the atmosphere, the excess will fall out as precipitation. But if you add more CO2 to the atmosphere, it stays there. We don't care about the part that cannot change no matter what happens, it's just "always there" (sim

  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Monday July 19, 2010 @03:48AM (#32948130)

    Gotta love the cherry picking here. Take two arbitrary end points, get a downward slope, and then simplistically extend that slope forever. Never mind that another two end points would provide an upwards slope and reverse the prediction. Never mind that the system behaves in a demonstrably non-linear manner.

    This is like saying the temperature from July to December decreased 20 degrees, and if that rate continued, we'll be at -200C in another ten years. I call BS on the church of global warming.

  • The Ground Realities (Score:5, Informative)

    by tanveer1979 (530624) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:19AM (#32948236) Homepage Journal

    Since I live very close to himalayas, I can say with confidence, that things have changed quite a bit.
    Is it global warming/regional warming or no warming, I dunno.
    But over the past 6-7 years these changes have forced farmers to change crop cycles, modified travel plans of seasonal roads, etc., etc.,

    Basically, in the Western himalayas, around November, snowfalls would start, seasonal roads would close by december, and jan feb were heavy snowfall months, with some in April and may.

    Now from past few years, there is hardly any snow during December and even January, which leads to lousy apple crop.
    Then in feb, it snows some, and in April may and june, well heavy snowfall in higher reaches.
    This kills the standing crop.
    The entire north India reels under heat wave as there is hardly any winter rain. We start getting summer in feb instead of April.
    The mountains start getting snow.

    So is it warming or cooling. No idea, but its a big change from what has been happening since 1900 or so(when record keeping started).

    Winter rain, at the correct time, and winter snow at correct time is very important for healthy crops. all this cycle change has led to big problems.
    To add to that, monsoon summer rain has also reduced. Thankfully, this year, though a bit late, monsoon is mostly adequate, but then here also instead of sustained rain over few days, most places get a cloudburst like havoc creating spell, and then its humid and dry. The dams will get filled up, but areas depending only on rain will suffer.
    Such rains also lead to big landslides.

    Part of the blame is on local deforestation, and micro climate change in the Himalayan region due to rapid commercialization and deforestation. Since protecting the environment is not yet a major election issue, its just a lip service on world environment day, when we switch of lights for an hour(and then get the routine 10 hour power cut due to overload of AC).

    So all in all, pics or no pics, the local weather in western himalayas has changed. Hopefully, this weather pattern will stabilize, and farmers will switch there crop sowing times. But since its still too erratic, its a big problem.

    As for global warming, when I see the temperature records for the region since 1900, the average temp has been rising steadily in most places, but whether this warming is caused by humans or not, I dunno. I am not a climatologist and like many people here, I will refrain from posting my theories on the changes.
    All that matters to many, is that its getting hotter and drier, and rainfall patterns are shifting alarmingly.
    Many glaciers in central himalayas are indeed receding, and its a fact. Not that they are warmer now, but because from past few years, there has been little winter snow in these areas.
    The ski slopes of Auli, which used to be snowed out in winters, now are devoid of snow many times. Last year Auli did not get a snow season.
    This year in June higher reaches of himachal got a few feet of snow. Not unusual, but definitely unusual in the peak of summer!

    So the weather is changing, but who is changing it I dunno. I hope it can be fixed, because it causing a lot of food supply problems. Fruits are out of reach of many, and if this continues, even cereals will become precious.

  • Snow cover (Score:3, Informative)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@ g d a r g a u d . net> on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:35AM (#32948300) Homepage
    Talking as a mountain climber, and trying to put the discussion back on topic (I see 141 comments, mostly trolling and inevitable answers), I'll just say that comparing pictures for snow covers is misleading, even when taken at the same time of the year. A few inches of snow can be enough to make it appear as if you have lots more. Only depth samples and yearly layer comparisons can give you hindsight. Even comparing the length of a given glacier over time can be misleading: if it rains a lot, it will lubricate the bottom interface between ice and rock and the ice will flow faster, hence a longer glacier (for a while).
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Monday July 19, 2010 @11:27AM (#32951518) Journal

    The problem is everyone sees ice loss, and assumes melt. It's not melt, it is sublimation.

    Sublimation - when solid goes directly to gas is to blame. This is like water ice on Mars evaporating (not melting) into the martian atmosphere. Here on Earth the increased sublimation is caused by land use changes. What was once moist forest at the feet of the mountains, has become drier farm land. This drier air then travels over the mountain and picks up moisture directly from the ice.

    How else can you explain ice loss at below-freezing temperatures? You can't just say the "ice melted" unless you show that it is warmer at the peak. These pictures are proof that man is modifying the environment, but only locally, and has nothing to do with temperature.

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