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Earth Science

Black Soot May Be Aiding Melting In the Himalayas 336

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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  • by zz5555 ( 998945 ) on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:40AM (#30511338)
    This is pretty old news. I think I've seen reports of this at least as far back as 2003. But it's estimated that this effect is only 25% of global warming. Green house gases are most of the rest. And, yes, it doesn't necessarily take a huge increase in global temperatures to get the glaciers melting.
  • by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:44AM (#30511352)
    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.
  • 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.

  • by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:13AM (#30511624)

    we aren't seeing the massive deluge that was predicted

    Can you just help me out real quick and post a few links to these predictions of a deluge?

    Much appreciated.

  • 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 political willpower to oppose that

    simply because massive ecosystem change will imperil billions on this planet and their economic well-being. we will therefore assemble to resist climate change. this is what we do: we are homo sapiens. we do not adapt to nature. nature adapts to us

    if you don't understand or believe we have the power to alter our ecosystem, or that for some reason we won't alter our climate when climate change threatens us, manmade or natural, then you are in some sort of serious denial about what kind of creature we really are

  • lol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:37AM (#30511878) Homepage Journal

    "And if solar cycles are the cause, there's not a darn thing humans can do about it except adapt."

    you really believe that?

    if climate change threatens our economic well being, you rest assured that century or two of focused scientific innovation and politically supported engineering and industrial policies will, without a doubt, counteract natural changes, like a cooling or a heating solar cycle cause

    nuclear detonations at volcanic regions to cool things down under cloud cover (study factual little ice ages after massive historical volcanic eruptions in man's historical written record)

    purposeful amping up of CO2 output to greenhouse effect heat things up

    there's all sorts of things we can do

    we have amazing technological abilities compared to just a century ago, nevermind what powers we will discover in another century or two

    in 2 or 3 centuries, this entire planet will have a micromanaged climate, if civilization doesn't break down. then the issue will be political bickering between, for example, morocco wishing to do away with more sahara so it can can grow more crops, while brazil says this costs them money to counteract the related drying up of the amazon due to morocco's efforts. we already see this sort of environmental bickering between nations over the damming and controlling of rivers that cross national boundaries

    lets put it this way: our ancestors would be in amazed awe at our ability to completely redirect an entire river if we wanted to, and as we frequently do in today's world. but ancient man, in looking at the hard work of beavers, would not think it in the realm of the impossible for us to do that one day

    likewise, today, looking at how past volcanic eruptions have led to mini-ice ages, i, like ancient man before me looking at beavers, see that future micromanaging of our climate is not impossible, and will be someday a mundane matter-of-fact effort, like garbage disposal and plumbing

    you just lack imagination and perception

  • Re:Satellite Imagery (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Low Ranked Craig ( 1327799 ) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:16AM (#30512260)
    But wait. I thought the problem was solely the responsibility of the US. Now I'm confused.
  • mod parent up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:54AM (#30512694) Homepage Journal

    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 argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:32PM (#30513246) Journal

    "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 have no ice to live on! Do I care? Nope, I'd guess they're going to go back to being, well, plain old bears.
    Oh no, sea levels are rising! Maybe people shouldn't have gotten terribly comfortable living in marginal habitats (ie below sea level) in the first place? Here's a tip: extend the timeline far enough, and ALL HUMAN CONSTRUCTS (including cities) have a survival chance of zero. Get over it.
    Oh no it's getting warmer/cooler: First, I'm not going to notice a degree or three in my lifetime. And if the storms get worse or it gets wetter or drier? Meh, I'll deal with it. Humans are THE most adaptable creatures on the planet, we'll get through it.

    What I certainly WON'T do is to allow a politically-motivated silver-spoon has-been failed politico to 'motivate' any of my actions whatsoever. I will not listen to the crying whines of 'the sky is falling' from a cadre of hippies, ivory-tower academics, and politicians that have been saying the SAME THING* since 1972. Read the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and get back to me; I'm well aware that eventually, he might be right and there might indeed eventually BE a wolf, but I'm willing to risk it just to be able to tune you out.
    * replace 'anthropogenic global warming' with other crises as needed: food, land, fresh water, nuclear winter, radiation, overpopulation, extinctions, etc.

    The climate changes. If it's anthropogenic, I DON'T CARE. If that's the price we pay to have cell phones, cars, and internet porn, I'm cool with that.

    I swear to god that the first time Caveman A invented cooked meat, whiny Cavegirl B said "don't eat that, you'll get carcinogens!"

  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:46PM (#30513428) Journal

    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.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?