The Water Future of Earth’s ‘Third Pole’

From NASA

June 26, 2019

Follow the Freshwater: By predicting droughts and floods and tracking blooms of algae, NASA’s view of freshwater around the globe helps people manage their water. Credits: NASA/ Katy Mersmann

Follow the Freshwater: By predicting droughts and floods and tracking blooms of algae, NASA’s view of freshwater around the globe helps people manage their water. Credits: NASA/ Katy Mersmann

Himalaya. Karakoram. Hindu Kush. The names of Asia’s high mountain ranges conjure up adventure to those living far away, but for more than a billion people, these are the names of their most reliable water source.

Snow and glaciers in these mountains contain the largest volume of freshwater outside of Earth’s polar ice sheets, leading hydrologists to nickname this region the Third Pole. One-seventh of the world’s population depends on rivers flowing from these mountains for water to drink and to irrigate crops.

Rapid changes in the region’s climate, however, are affecting glacier melt and snowmelt. People in the region are already modifying their land-use practices in response to the changing water supply, and the region’s ecology is transforming. Future changes are likely to influence food and water security in India, Pakistan, China and other nations.

Rapid changes in the region’s climate are affecting glacier flows and snowmelt. Local people are already modifying their land-use practices in response to the changing supply, and the region’s ecology is transforming. Scientists estimate that by 2100, these glaciers could be up to 75% smaller in volume.

Credits: NASA/ Katie Jepson

This video is available for download at NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

NASA is keeping a space-based eye on changes like these worldwide to better understand the future of our planet’s water cycle. In this region where there are extreme challenges in collecting observations on the ground, NASA’s satellite and other resources can produce substantial benefits to climate science and local decision makers tasked with managing an already-scarce resource.

The most comprehensive survey ever made of snow, ice and water in these mountains and how they are changing is now underway. NASA’s High Mountain Asia Team (HiMAT), led by Anthony Arendt of the University of Washington in Seattle, is in its third year. The project consists of 13 coordinated research groups studying three decades of data on this region in three broad areas: weather and climate; ice and snow; and downstream hazards and impacts.

All three of these subject areas are changing, starting with climate. Warming air and alterations in monsoon patterns affect the regional water cycle – how much snow and rain falls, and how and when the snowpack and glaciers melt. Changes in the water cycle raise or lower the risk of local hazards such as landslides and flooding, and have broad impacts on water allocation and crops that can be grown.

Making Impossible Science Possible

For most of human history, a detailed scientific study of these mountains was impossible. The mountains are too high and steep, and the weather too dangerous. The satellite era has given us the first opportunity to observe and measure snow and ice cover safely in places where no human has ever set foot.

“The explosive growth of satellite technology has been incredible for this region,” said Jeffrey Kargel, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and leader of a HiMAT team studying glacial lakes. “We can do things now that we couldn’t do ten years ago – and ten years ago we did things we couldn’t do before that.” Kargel also credited advances in computer technology that have enabled far more researchers to undertake large data-processing efforts, which are required to improve weather forecasting over such complex topography.

Arendt’s HiMAT team is charged with integrating the many, varied types of satellite observations and existing numerical models to create an authoritative estimate of the water budget of this region and a set of products local policy makers can use in planning for a changing water supply. A number of data sets by HiMAT teams have already been uploaded to NASA’s Distributed Active Archive Center at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Collectively, the suite of new products is called the Glacier and Snow Melt (GMELT) Toolbox.

Debris Dam Dangers and Other Impacts

There’s some urgency in completing the toolbox, because changes in melt patterns appear to be increasing the region’s hazards – some of which are found only in this kind of terrain, such as debris dam “failures” on glacial lakes and surging glaciers blocking access to mountain villages and pastures. In the last few decades, towns and infrastructure such as roads and bridges have been wiped out by these events.

Kargel’s team is studying catastrophic flooding from glacial lakes. These lakes start as melt pools on the surfaces of glaciers, but under the right conditions they may continue to melt all the way to ground level, pooling behind a precarious pile of ice and debris that was originally the front end of the glacier. An earthquake, rockfall or simply the increasing weight of water may breach the debris dam and create a flash flood.

Lakes like this were almost unknown 50 or 60 years ago, but as most high mountain Asian glaciers have been shrinking and retreating, glacial lakes have been proliferating and growing. The largest one Kargel has measured, Lower Barun in Nepal, is 673 feet (205 meters) deep with a volume of almost 30 billion gallons (112 million cubic meters), or about 45,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools full. The HiMAT team has mapped every glacial lake larger than about 1,100 feet (330 meters) in diameter for three different time periods – about 1985, 2001 and 2015 – to study how the lakes have evolved.

As the size and number of glacial lakes increase, so does the threat they pose to the local population and infrastructure. Dalia Kirschbaum of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, leads a group that is using satellite data to predict what areas are most susceptible to landslides in high mountain Asia, which can then inform the placement of new infrastructure of the region.

Darker Snow, Faster Snowmelt

One critical factor in future rates of snow and ice melt is the role of dust, soot and pollution that settle on the frozen surfaces. Pristine white snow reflects more than 90% of incoming solar radiation back into the atmosphere. But when snow is blanketed by darker-colored particles of soot or dust, this coating absorbs more heat and the snow melts faster. Research has shown that the reason the Little Ice Age ended in Europe was the coating of soot deposited on the Alps by the Industrial Revolution. In Asia, the last 35 years have seen significant increases in the amount of soot settling on mountain snow. Whether these Asian ranges will react the same way the Alps did centuries ago is an important question.

When soot and dust settle on snow, the darker-colored particles absorb more heat and the snow melts faster. Animation.

When soot and dust settle on snow, the darker-colored particles absorb more heat and the snow melts faster.

Credits: NASA/ Bailee DesRocher

Several HiMAT teams are focused on this issue. Si-Chee Tsay of NASA Goddard is using satellite data to gain a better understanding of the properties of snow, ice, and dust and soot particles in this region. His group is also working in collaboration with regional researchers in Nepal to install sensors at ground level on glaciers located on Mt. Everest, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, among other sites. These sensors will allow researchers to check the accuracy of satellite readings obtained over the same sites.

Tom Painter of the University of California, Los Angeles, is leading a team using satellite data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the NOAA/NASA Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) in the community Weather Research and Forecasting model to quantify past and possible future variations in snow cover and other factors as soot and dust change. Another team, led by Sarah Kapnick of NOAA, is accounting for dust and soot within global climate models, to improve understanding of both historical and predicted future regional changes.

The tallest mountains in the world make for unique challenges in weather forecasting. A team led by Summer Rupper of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City has addressed one of these challenges by developing a model that differentiates between ice and snow that were deposited on the region during the monsoon season and those that came from winter storms, so that scientists can study where and when snow is likely to fall throughout the year.

Early Conclusions

In the HiMAT survey’s final year, Arendt said, the research is coming together and the teams’ scientific papers are heading for publication. One of the more alarming conclusions is that the glaciers will be 35 to 75% smaller in volume by 2100 due to rapid melting. A paper published on June 19 in Science Advances by HiMAT team members supports this conclusion with an analysis of 40 years of satellite data on glaciers in the Himalayan range. (The early years of data that researchers used for this study come from declassified spy satellites.) Not only are all glaciers in the Himalayan Range losing ice, the average rate of ice loss doubled between the first 25 years of satellite data, 1975-2000, and the most recent 16 years, 2000-2016.

Whether rain and snowfall will also change, and whether changes would compound or mitigate the effects of ice loss, are not yet clear. Precipitation already varies considerably from one range to another in this region, depending on the monsoon and the flow of winter storms into the area. For example, precipitation is currently increasing in the Karakoram Range, where glaciers are either stable or advancing, but in every other range in this region, nearly all glaciers are retreating. Whether that anomaly will continue, grow stronger, or reverse as the climate continues to change is not yet clear. “Global climate dynamics will dictate where storms end up and how they intercept the mountains,” Arendt said. “Even small changes in the tracking of the storms can create significant variability.”

Findings like these are why the HiMAT teams are eager to complete their GMELT toolbox, Arendt noted. The new products will offer decision-makers the best compilation of knowledge that can currently be made of how high mountain Asia has been changing in recent decades, along with a new set of resources to help them plan how best to prepare for the future of this hard-to-predict region.

By: Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

Last Updated: June 26, 2019

Editor: Sara Blumberg

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84 thoughts on “The Water Future of Earth’s ‘Third Pole’

  1. “One-seventh of the world’s population depends on rivers flowing from these mountains for water to drink and to irrigate crops.”…..
    So, if the glaciers STOP melting, these people would die ? Go, Go Global Warming..! (it’s a Godzilla thingy)..sigh…more coffee needed…..D’OH !

    • The thing is that if the glaciers stop melting due to global cooling, people will also die according to their logic.

      If the glaciers keep melting at the 1970s rate, they will eventually disappear. No matter what happens, the present situation is not sustainable.

      There is a real problem and it doesn’t matter whether or not CAGW is real.

      With regard to ralfellis’ comment below, I’m not sure if the annual precipitation is sufficient.

      • On the other, other hand:

        Barnett et al. (2005) report that “there is little doubt that melting glaciers provide a key source of water for the region in the summer months: as much as 70 percent of the summer flow in the Ganges and 50 to 60 percent of the flow in other major rivers.” link

        The above quote comes from an excellent book Himalayan Glaciers: Climate Change, Water Resources, and Water Security (2012) Chapter: 2 Physical Geography. If you want to understand glacial dynamics, the linked chapter is well worth reading.

        • That citation is absurd, since summer is the wet season when most rain falls and if you read on it continues:

          “..This statement is based on estimates of glacial melt contributions to river flow derived from models that relied on many assumptions because of the lack of field data..”

          and then goes on to thoroughly demolish that modelling. Those figures only apply to rivers at an altitude of 3800 meters, i e close to the treeline.

          • Yes. A reading of the whole chapter highlights just how much uncertainty there is about anything to do with the HKH glaciers.

          • Surely, in that area summer means the hot, dry months of May and June that precede the monsoon of July and August?

      • What is often overlooked is that, as long as the planet is above a certain average temperature, the glaciers are generally going to be melting. Above that temperature, the rate of this melting goes up and down. This is generally where we are today.

        In the Little Ice Age, the planet appeared to be below that average temperature and glaciers grew around the world. This is the reality of the planet. And, within the population of glaciers, each has essentially its own break even temperature and snowfall rate, which means that, at any given time, some glaciers will be growing and some will be shrinking.

        • Actually Charles, even during the Little Ice Age the planet was well above the “average temperature”. We have not “left the Ice Age”, we are still in it, albeit inhabiting a rare, warm Interglacial.

          This makes a huge difference in perspective.

      • If people are threatened locally by glacial lakes, here’s a simple, low tech solution. Put a siphon tube going from the lake to the dry river bed below. A siphon which could empty an olympic sized pool in a day would take 150 days to empty the largest lake, hardly human overkill.

    • Glaciers are reservoirs, NOT sources! Improper usage of language makes the truth unobtainable.

    • The main water source for Himalayan rivers is monsoon rain (and snow), not glacial melt: the Ganges basin only gets 3% from glaciers ttps://bioone.org/journals/Mountain-Research-and-Development/volume-32/issue-4/MRD-JOURNAL-D-12-00027.1/Climate-Change-Impacts-on-Glacier-Hydrology-and-River-Discharge-in/10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-12-00027.1.full

      People writing about the Himalayas without considering the Monsoon have never been there and have no clue at all: the Alps or the Rocky mountains are not world standards. In Europe they are alarmed at 20 or 30 mm rainfall a day; this is peanuts in the wet tropics and even less in orographic lift locations.

  2. “Research has shown that the reason the Little Ice Age ended in Europe was the coating of soot deposited on the Alps by the Industrial Revolution.”

    Astounding b*ll**ks. And I notice that the fourth paragraph of this meeja release is virtually the same as the third with a little editing. Sloppy writing. Sloppy editing. Sloppy NASA copy approval process. Sloppy research.

    Have I understood this correctly – people at NASA are actually getting paid to produce this Jimmy Olsen rubbish?

    • Not quite boIIo…..

      Please read “End of the Little Ice Age in the Alps forced by industrial black carbon” by Painter, which demonstrates that Alpine glacial melt since the LIA was exacerbated by industrial soot-on-ice (ie, by albedo). And they found real evidence for this. Now that does not mean that just soot ended the LIA, but it does appear to have been a contributory factor.

      The idea that climate is controlled by ice-sheet-abedo was also the basis for my own science paper on the ice age cycle. Once more the primary feedback controlling the ice age cycle appears to be contaminants (in this case Gobi Desert dust) on the northern ice sheets. Please see “Modulation of Ice Ages via Dust and Albedo”.

      Ralph

      • Far less soot in the atmosphere, with particulate carbon, screens out solar energy and creates what was known as Solar Gloom cooling. This is something that Hansen used in his paper on why the Pause occurred. He explained that the Pause was caused by a resurgence in particulate carbon and sulphate emissions from rapidly increasing Chinese Industries from the 1980’s onwards. What he implied, but may never have realised, was that he was accepting that the average global temperature rises from the 1950’s onwards had more to do with the West’s Clean Air Acts and Anti-Acid Rain Regulations, starting from that time, compared to any effects of increasing CO2! That means the Average Global Temperature/CO2 Level curve is far less steep than the warmists have used and are using in their model theories!

        • So essentially they can use the same phenomenon to argue for completely opposite outcomes. A bit like’ warming will cause all the far northern hemisphere land ice to melt’ but then the more open Arctic ocean will increase total snowfall in the far north and, voila, snow cover is now increasing.

          When/if Himalayan ice fields are found to be increasing not decreasing then they will probably say this is because of increased precipitation of the Asian monsoon.

          That’s the great thing about climate science-you get to be retrospectively right even when you are wrong.

          • Yes both ways. – and this is interestingly what we learned in the 1870s in school. Soot and aerosols in the air were causing the planet to cool and we would soon be in an ice age. However all the glaciers would still be melting for awhile because the soot was landing on them and warming them up.

            In a few decades when the cooling got really bad ice would start to grow again anyway, and scientists would be prepared to selectively deposit soot directly on the glaciers to help them melt.

            Now we hear about cloud generators to block the sun, and tossing tons of chelated iron in the oceans to cause single celled algae to grow and suck up all the tacos Al Carbon.

          • Dang, Marque, you’re a lot older than me. Fortunately, they were still teaching those basics in the 1970s when I finished high school and college.

      • Not Gobi desert dust. The main source of NH dust is Takla-Makan, not Gobi.

        Incidentally that dust comes mostly from erosion of the Himalayas. Rivers running north end up in inland deltas along the edge of Takla Makan thus constantly replenishing the supply of fine materials.

        • >>Not Gobi desert dust. The main source of NH
          >>dust is Takla-Makan, not Gobi.

          In the modern era yes, but not during the depth of the ice age.

          The problem in the ice age is that CO2 concentrations got so low, that all C3 plants at high altitude died off. This resulted in high altitude CO2 deserts (not aridity deserts).

          And so the Gobi became one vast CO2 desert. This is confirmed by the deposits on the Loess Plateau, and by isotopic analysis of the deposits on the Greenland ice sheet.

          Ralph

          • “not during the depth of the ice age”

            Yes, even then:

            http://www.pages-igbp.org/products/latest/7252-a-10-000-km-dust-highway-between-the-taklamakan-desert-and-greenland

            The Gobi dust goes mostly east and south into the Chinese Loess Plateau. It still does during “the dusty season” in late winter and early spring. And while Takla Makan is always extreme desert, Gobi is not quite as bad, not even at glacial maximum. The fossils indicate a fairly rich fauna there even at LGM, while the Takla Makan is essentially devoid of life.

            This is because Takla Makan is a desert due to extreme rain shadow all around the Tarim Basin, which always applies, come glacial or interglacial, while dryness in the Gobi is modulated by the strength of the Summer Monsoon.

          • No, not then.

            The production of dust at the LGM increased a hundred fold, not because of increased transport (winds), but because of increased area – because the Gobi became a vast shifting-sand desert.

            It was Gobi dust that covered the northern ice sheets, not simply Taklamakan.

            R

      • Hi Ralph, rather much bollo, IMO. Ca. 1850 there was very little industry in Europe outside of UK. Now, by the 1890s, the situation was dramatically different, but at that point, warming had been underway for quite some time. I wonder if there is evidence of tourists in the Alps at ca. 1910 complaining of soot on the glaciers?

        • Henning…
          I invite you to read the paper I cited. They claimed to have found a great deal of soot dating from 1870 onwards. They could be wrong, but their paper is worth reading. A free pdf is available, online.

          R

      • “But when snow is blanketed by darker-colored particles of soot or dust, this coating absorbs more heat and the snow melts faster.”

        The unstated assumption is that the cloud cover will be sparse enough to allow sunlight to reach the surface. Typically, glaciers are found where there are a lot of clouds. I think that changes in cloudiness is being overlooked in these analyses.

      • I think the devil is in the details and if I am wrong, I am sure to be corrected.

        A finding that the industrial revolution deposited more soot on the Alpine glaciers, and that soot resulted in less reflection and more absorption of solar radiation, which in turn caused the glaciers to melt and retreat DOES NOT mean that the industrial revolution ended the LIA. The Little Ice Age was not confined to Europe, it was global. Localized glacial melting and retreat may be concurrent with increasing global temperatures, but they didn’t cause the global change.

    • Fully agree. The Little Ice Age began ending in the 18th Century. It eventually ended in the mid 19th Century, by which time the Industrial Revolution had only reached very, very few localised areas and making up a minute proportion of the total land mass areas of Europe. This L.I.A theory also implies that a climate event very localised in a very small area of Europe affected not just all of Europe but areas outside of Europe, if not even globally!

    • Actual ice core data debunk the “industrial soot from 1850 onwards ended the Little Ice Age” theory.

      https://www.heritagedaily.com/2018/10/why-the-little-ice-age-ended-in-the-middle-of-the-19th-century/121949

      The reality is that we do not know what caused the end of the Little Ice Age, just as we do not know what caused the start of the Little Ice Age, or what caused any of the cycles that resulted in the various glaciations and inter-glacial epochs for the last 2.6 my. We only know a little about various postulated and plausible causative factors, though we do not and probably cannot ever know the relative contributions of all of the various causative factors that provided both positive and negative feedbacks to our extremely complex climate system on Earth.

      Every so-called scientist who claims to “know” how a complex system works is simply lying.

  3. How does shrinking glaciers affect the water runoff as long as they do not entirely disappear annually?

    Why do we think this is not just another climate cycle? Has NASA checked the glacier sizes for the last few thousand years to determin if we are above or below average?

    Is NASA just looking for more funding?

    • Shrinking glaciers actually augment water supplies, but in this case only very slightly. The total volume of the glaciers is 3,000-5,000 km^3, so a 35-75 % decrease in 80 years means an additional 12-42 km^3 water per year (fresh water being about 10% denser than glacier ice).

      Here are the annual discharge volume for the main rivers that arise in Karakoram-Himalaya as a comparison:

      Yangtze 950 km^3
      Brahmaputra 625 km^3
      Ganges 525 km^3
      Mekong 500 km^3
      Irrawaddy 410 km^3
      Indus 210 km^3
      Salween 150 km^3
      Red River 85 km^3

      The possible effect on flow from the melting glaciers is therefore considerably less than 1 % (since much of the water from shrinking glaciers is actually sublimation, and large parts of the area is endorheic, to boot).
      Or to put it another way, the total volume of the glaciers is about equal to one year’s flow fom the main rivers originating in Karakoram-Himalaya (there are many smaller ones).

      • tty — agree. Glacial melt is minor. Any warming isn’t going to stop snow & subsequent melting from occurring in the very high elevations (might even increase snowfall w/more water vapor), and the monsoons themselves provide almost all the river flow.

        Another lame attempt at fake scare-mongering.

      • You forgot the Yellow river in China, best described by the classic and often cited text by I. P. Freely.

        • I only counted the biggest ones. Hwang-ho is very important for northern China but not that big really (about 80 km^3/y). One might include Amu Darya and Syr Darya as well, all the rivers on the leeward side of the mountains are relatively small.

    • Usually they would tend to even out river flow over the year as snow falling in winter melts in summer. Not in this case though since summer is the wet season in this area and winter is mostly dry.

    • Water runoff will increase if glaciers shrink, the question is what happens to that water. Does it just go to rivers, is it stored behind ice dams?

      There are other questions concerning when the melt happens, whether it is more explosive or whether it is simply spread over a longer time period.

      Flooding events occur due to explosive melts, breached ice dams or heavy rain melting snow and ice.

      If the melt were simply spread over a longer time period, that would be beneficial for agriculture, drinking water etc.

  4. I thinks scientists (and the media) forget that global warming will mean MORE water is available from the Himalaya, while global cooling will mean LESS water available (as all the fresh precipitation is locked up as ice).

    Meanwhile, static condition will mean the SAME amount of water available – whether the glaciers are huge or small.

    Looking long term, the size of the ice cap is irrelevant, the only factor here is the annual precipitation. And if this precipitation runs away instead of being conveniently stored for the dry summer season, then build some dams. This is not rocket science.

    R

    • @ralfellis, good point with the dams. The Romans was aware of the need to do water supply infrastructure. The same thing goes for this day and age.

    • Chaswarnertoo: It ain’t any sort of science.

      Chaswarnertoo: This IS science – Collecting facts without purpose and putting them together according to ever the same rules. Until it makes sense to someone.

  5. These places are high enough to be of aviation concern. I mean, with base camps at close to North American transition altitude, quite a lot of hard working people and their passengers are concerned.

    However as far as our procedures go, NASA has not made any significant global safety contribution with respect to climate.

    So are the effects of global warming/climate change/climate disruption and so on, limited to politically correct areas or are they global ?

    If those nefarious effects are that potent there, then, time is to consider their global impact on our daily bread making.

    However NASA restrains it’s findings to high altitude weather effects on land objects.

    Or is it that those putative doomsday heat on steroids changes are simply not being noticed by weather trained professionals with first-hand implication in the process, yes, right there where it’s supposed to happen ?

    Or is it that the increasing use of anti-icing might turn into a hot potato inconvenient topic ?

    • One of my children frequently comments on how often the error bars are missing from graphs which he says makes them virtually worthless.

  6. and wouldnt any soot or dust be covered over next seasons snowfalls anyway?
    iceagenow.info had an item on 700 oxen/yajs? that died stuck in 70ft of snow up there this yr
    doesnt sound like its dry up there let alone warm

    • Not surprising. The continental shelves are usually dry land. The sea is only this high less than 10% of the time.

      And you can see this going on at the surface in places. In Oman they have “khawr” which are narrow inlets of the sea. At the landward end they are almost fresh with reedbeds and bushes and then grow saltier towards the outlet. And this is in the Arabian peninsula, which is almost all desert.

    • Gotta be careful pumping aquifers though.
      Removing water leads to Recession
      Recession leads to Depression
      Depression leads to apparent Sea Level Rise
      Sea Level Rise leads to Hate among Environmentalist groups
      Hate is the path to the Dark Side

  7. How much soot is needed to affect the absorption of solar energy? How black does the surface have to be? Where are the photographs, from the mid 19th Century onwards, with grey or even black snow anywhere in the Alps?

    • Glaciers are always “dirty” in summer in the part that is melting. Soot is part of the reason (human or natural from forest fires), but also desert dust (mostly from Central Asia in the NH, from Patagonia in the SH), meteoric dust, volcanic ash and also from microscopic algae that grow in the snow. Even locusts:

      https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/grasshopper-glacier

      The snow in Antarctica is pretty clean (and there isn’t really much surface melting there), but elsewhere there is always a fair amount of “dirt”.

  8. I appreciate that this science can lead to better short term weather predictions and identification of potential flood episodes etc.; but very dangerous if attempting long term forecasts relating to the climate.

    Unfortunately I suspect the dead hand of group think will influence the values and assumptions relating to the constants and variables applied to the models which will drive the conclusions for the long term. This will result in yet more hysterical prognostications littering the MSM et al.
    A shame really as there is probably some good science at work here.

    IMO the historic changes in monsoon patterns will be the major influence. The experience of Anka Wat decimated by a 10 year shift in the monsoons is a case in mind. But 10 years is not even a datum point in the climate graph.

  9. Start with a whopping big lie and go on from there….

    “Snow and glaciers in these mountains contain the largest volume of freshwater outside of Earth’s polar ice sheets”

    Volume of Himalaya-Karakoram glaciers: 3,000-5,000 km^3:

    https://www.the-cryosphere.net/8/2313/2014/tc-8-2313-2014.pdf

    Baikal: 23,600 km^3
    Tanganyika: 18,900 km^3
    Superior: 11,600 km^3
    Malawi: 7,700 km^3
    Vostok: 5,400 km^3
    Michigan: 4,900 km^3
    Huron: 3,500 km^3

    “Lakes like this were almost unknown 50 or 60 years ago”

    Nonsense. I visited my first “live” proglacial lake (Jökulsárlón) about 40 years ago (lots more since then, on several continents), but I was of course long familiar with the phenomenon and had seen many of “fossil” examples in Scandinavia. They have been well-understood and described in the literature since c. 1880.

    “Research has shown that the reason the Little Ice Age ended in Europe was the coating of soot deposited on the Alps by the Industrial Revolution. “

    Also nonsense. The Little Ice Age was world-wide (possibly excepting Antarctica).

    • “Lakes like this were almost unknown 50 or 60 years ago”
      Let’s play “spot the hidden pea” here; Very likely, lakes like this existed, they just hadn’t been discovered, or weren’t considered important. Also, 50-60 years ago, we were still in a cool period of the modern warming, so nice cherry-picking on their part.

      • They claim to have satellite data for 40 years so I don’t see how they can make claims for 50-60 years ago.

    • Yes, tty. That

      “Research has shown that the reason the Little Ice Age ended in Europe was the coating of soot deposited on the Alps by the Industrial Revolution.“

      Didn’t they find archived in ice cores “the coating of soot deposited on the Alps” before “the Industrial Revolution”.

  10. If you see NASA as the originator of the article, don’t even bother to read it. Trump needs to relieve NASA of its climate duty charade.

  11. India burns an awful lot of coal and has lots of coal power plants in the pipeline through the rest of the century. These plants don’t all have good scrubbers.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/thewire.in/business/why-indias-deadly-coal-power-plants-continue-polluting/amp/

    NASA is probably getting surface albedo readings in this program, but they’ll still blame any future soot generated ice melt acceleration on global warming…even though it doesn’t require much “darkening” by particulates to outpace CO2 forcing which can’t be very high at these altitudes.

  12. Why are my tax dollars being spent for this rubbish? The countries that use that water have the technology, if not they can pay NASA for it.

  13. And why is NASA doing such research? Are they not supposed to work on aeronautics and space as their name implies? Seems to me that NOAA, supposedly focused on oceanic and atmospheric matters, would be better suited.

  14. One critical factor in future rates of snow and ice melt is the role of dust, soot and pollution that settle on the frozen surfaces. Yes, in west central Colorado the exceptionally late/deep snow pack appears to be exceptionally clean snow. Usually, dust is deposited between snow storms in the winter, speeding the melt. Not so this year. Having been here 47 years, I’ve never seen the mountains so green., nor so much rain/snow in June.

  15. “One-seventh of the world’s population depends on rivers flowing from these mountains for water to drink and to irrigate crops.”

    I want highlight a fatal flaw in the claim. The amount of water flowing “from these mountains” is nowhere near the total volume in the rivers that reach the sea. The impression is repeatedly given that all the water used by the downstream nations originates from annual glacier melt.

    This is simply not true. It would be true if it didn’t rain anywhere else on the continent, but it does. Just because a river starts in the Himalayas doesn’t weather are no tributaries joining it on its path to the sea.

    One of the promoters of the idea that the glaciers disappear, there will be no water in the rivers is George Monbiot who made a series of documentaries trying to bolster this alarming claim. It’s nonsense.

    There are a couple of dark hints in the piece above selling the idea that “the monsoon will shift” and it will stop precipitating in the Himalayas. More nonsense.

    If all the glaciers melt, as they did in Ontario, the result is that winter snowfall melts in Spring and summer rains flow downhill. That’s it. No big deal. The false claim that if the glaciers melt to nothing there will be no flow in the rivers must be exposed.

    The rivers only have water in them because the glaciers are melting! If melting stopped, there would be no water, obviously, not at the point of departure. Hopefully they will continue to melt each spring. If melting stopped the rivers would contain the water from tributaries that make up the bulk of what in them now.

    If glaciers disappear altogether that does mean there will be no snow and spring melt. If it got really warm, the precipitation would fall as rain and the rivers would flow all year long, not episodically.

    • The (summer) monsoon is caused by the big hot low pressure area that builds up every summer over Central Asia which draws in moisture from the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. It is known to be dependent on the Glacial/Interglacial cycle and in general terms warmer climate means a stronger monsoon that extends further north.

      It is really just sea breeze/land breeze though on annual rather than diurnal scale.

      It won’t stop until the Himalayas have eroded away and Central Asia becomes lowland/ocean again. Perhaps another 50 million years (mountains don’t last very long, geologically speaking).

    • “One-seventh of the world’s population depends on rivers flowing from these mountains for water to drink and to irrigate crops.”

      NASA propaganda by innuendo. This is another scaremongering piece from the Deep State.

    • This has been my point previously. Ice that stays as ice through the melt season is entirely beside the point. The only ice that matters is that which melts and flows out. In a warmer world there would presumably be less winter snowfall and more winter rainfall.
      The net result would be very similar amounts of water flowing out of the mountains. More consistent flow and less flooding. Horrible.

  16. “…largest volume of freshwater outside of Earth’s polar ice sheets, ”

    But that still not saying much, is it?

  17. OK, the article states, “We can do things now that we couldn’t do ten years ago – and ten years ago we did things we couldn’t do before that.” So if we didn’t have the means to measure and assess glaciers and snow melt prior to the satellite era how do we know that what they are measuring today is different than say what might have taken place in the 1930s or hundreds of years ago. All they can say is that things are changing from when they began to measure and collect data. They have no real clue as to why.

  18. “Nasa tracks the FUTURE of Asia’s glaciers”

    They finally got that time machine up and running.

  19. Just how much the area is dependent on snow melt seems weird, as it is a monsoon area, which hits in summer.

    • The conclusions of the article seem very tentative and uncertain, to the point of offering nothing really new.

      Injecting a new level of observations into a pattern that has been going on long before such observations existed is merely looking more closely at what has been going on all along. This increased awareness of what has been going on all along does not mean an increase in the phenomenon about which greater awareness has been gained.

      Knowing more does not equal something’s being more — it just means we know more about what we did not know before, in greater detail. Don’t confuse size of awareness with size of a phenomenon. I sense that this might be what is going on here.

  20. Similar exaggerations are made about the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers on the Canadian prairies. In fact, the melting icefields in the Rocky Mountains contribute about 4 percent of annual flow.

  21. I wonder what the Himilayan glaciers were doing during the very warm 1930’s? Probably melting like the arctic of the time was doing.

    I see where a new source of fresh water has been found off the coast of the northeast U.S.

    https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-discover-vast-reservoir-of-fresh-water-hidden-off-the-us-coast

    Scientists Discover a Vast Reservoir of Freshwater Hidden Beneath The Ocean

    PETER DOCKRILL

    24 JUN 2019

    Underneath the salty waters of the North Atlantic ocean, geologists have discovered a giant aquifer of freshwater, hidden from view just off the US coast.

    While the vast size of this massive cache is surprising, it’s not entirely unexpected. Signals of the water first showed up in the 1970s, but until now, nobody suspected that this huge reservoir trapped in porous rock might run almost the entire length of the US Northeast.

    “We knew there was freshwater down there in isolated places, but we did not know the extent or geometry,” says marine geologist Chloe Gustafson from Columbia University. . .

    The results, published in a study detailing the first comprehensive attempt to map this giant reservoir, reveal a mostly “continuous submarine aquifer system spans at least 350 km [217 miles] of the US Atlantic coast and contains about 2,800 cubic kilometres of low-salinity groundwater”.”

    end excerpts

  22. For most of human history, a detailed scientific study of these mountains was impossible. The mountains are too high and steep, and the weather too dangerous. The satellite era has given us the first opportunity to observe and measure snow and ice cover safely in places where no human has ever set foot.

    A bit OT maybe but, We now have new and better and more complete data yet the foundation of “CAGW” is claimed to be “settled science” before this and other new and better and more complete data was available.

  23. Interesting article as far as it goes. But my key takeaway came very early, in the 6th paragraph: “…studying three decades of data…”. I’ve been following the global warming/climate change debate for a few years now and am thoroughly convinced that the shortest multidecadal cycle required to draw reasonable conclusions about our modern earth climate is 60 years. I understand there are many climate-related phenomena such as glacier & ice sheet volume, mass balance and melting that just don’t go back that far. But how much certainty can be expressed regarding what will likely happen two or three decades in the future based on just 3 decades of data?

  24. No, glaciers are not the main source for drinking water! It is rain falling on the foothills and melting snow. Glacier melt only accounts for 3% of annual runoff. Disappearing glaciers doesn’t mean the end of rivers, look at Britain, it has no glaciers,

    R. Armstrong, D. Alford, and A. Racoviteanu, A preliminary assessment of the role of glaciers in the hydrologic regime of the Nepal Himalaya, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 11, EGU2009-10794, 2009

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