Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Glacial Melting in the Karakorum and Pamir Mountains of China

"Climate Change May be Baring Mount Everest" is the headline in a LA Times article of May 14, 2013.  Imbedded in that article is a link to a Nature article from last year about "Tibetan Glaciers Shrinking Rapidly."  Both stories help clarify the conditions we saw at Oytagh glacier and along the Karakorum Highway in southwestern China during our 38th Parallel travels.  We told that story in a post back in May 9, 2011 after visiting the rapidly shrinking Oytagh glacier. 
    What could be emphasized more in the news stories is the human concern that comes with glacial melting in that region.  To reach the mountains we had traveled along the southern edge of the Taklimakan Desert, the southern route of the famous Silk Road which connects a series of oasis towns where water has been critical to locals and travelers for thousands of years.  The source of water that creates those oases is the melting snow and ice from the nearby mountains.
   The recent research reported in the news stories notes the complexities of documenting impacts in that part of the world, where increased rainfall is coming to some regions influenced by westerly winds out of Europe as a result of global warming, while less falls in other sections of the Tibetan Plateau where the Indian monsoon is the weather-deliverer.  The monsoon has been weakening in recent decades.
   This week we learned that measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide are close to the 400 parts per million concentration and continuing to rise.  "The weekly average reading at Mauna Loa was 399.52...up nearly 22 points from a decade ago, according to the NOAA."  With so little effective action occurring globally to address this trend, the coming decades are going to be very challenging around the world.


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