Melting Ice Cap Threatens Water Supplies for 1.3 Billion
The ice cap that feeds 10 of Asia’s most important rivers is vanishing, threatening the water supply for more than one-sixth of humanity, Australia’s public broadcaster ABC reports.
Citing data going back to 1958 from a Chinese research station located high in the region it calls the ‘Third Pole’—the vast mountain glacier complex that stretches north from the Himalayas—the broadcaster says temperatures there are rising twice as fast as world averages.
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Water from the glacier complex flows into Asia’s “10 largest rivers, including the Yellow, the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Irrawaddy, and the Ganges—and their fertile deltas,” ABC says. Those rivers in turn “support roughly 1.3 billion people in China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.”
“And the glaciers are melting fast,” it adds. “More than 500 have completely disappeared, and the biggest ones are retreating rapidly.”
In Canada, where similar losses are occurring in mountain glaciers that feed western rivers, scientists observed rising river levels during the 20th century, as formerly stable mountain ice melted and augmented flows. That boost was temporary, however, and sharp declines in flows followed as the last of the headwater ice melted away.