One of the big unknowns of climate change predictions — and one that has led to considerable contention — lies in knowing the future of water runoff from the Himalayas. The snow- and ice-rich region supplies water for billions of people in Asia and is sometimes referred to as the Earth’s “Third Pole.”
For years, scientists struggled to understand how precipitation will change in these mountains (ClimateWire, Oct. 24, 2011). They have also had difficulty determining how much glacier melt from the mountains contributes to water supply.
Scientists climbing up the ice cliffs of the debris-covered tongue of the Lirung Glacier in the Himalayas. Photo courtesy of Evan Miles.
A study out yesterday in Nature Geoscience by Walter Immerzeel, a physical geographer at Utrecht University, suggests that, in at least two major Himalayan watersheds, river flows and runoff should rise until 2100.