One of the world’s biggest glacier regions has so far resisted global warming that has ravaged mountain ice elsewhere, scientists reported on Sunday.
For years, experts have debated the state of glaciers that smother nearly 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq. miles) of the Karakoram range in the western Himalayas.
Straddling parts of China, Pakistan and India, the Karakoram’s peaks include K2, Earth’s second-highest mountain.
Its glaciers account for nearly three percent of the world’s area of ice outside the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.
In locations around the planet, mountain glaciers are shrinking in response to higher temperatures, contributing importantly to sea-level rise.
Yet the situation for the Karakoram has until now been sketchy.
Scientists have found it almost impossible to study the glaciers on the ground, for the region lies at great altitude in a border area, and access is hampered by snow avalanches and glacial debris.
But a French team, comparing 3-D satellite maps from 2000 and 2008, said the glaciers had not lost mass over this period and may even have grown a tiny bit, at 0.11 millimetres (0.04 of an inch) per year.
“Apparently, the situation in the Karakoram is a little different (from elsewhere), which means that the glaciers are stable for the time being,” Julie Gardelle of the University of Grenoble in southeastern France told AFP.
“But it does not detract in any way from the evidence for overall global warming,” she cautioned.