An interesting new study published in the science journal Nature shows that the high altitude glaciers of Tibet have barely melted at all in the last decade.
Glaciers near Kunzom La, Spiti Valley
This study and its findings on the glaciers of Tibet are unique and significant. The study takes a first comprehensive look at the planet's glaciers and ice caps using data sent by a pair of satellites.
The findings on the Himalayan glaciers have shocked scientists. In the past, scientists have repeatedly said that the Himalayan glaciers are retreating at an alarming rate due to climate warming. This discourse was strong enough for the UN (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports) to make claims such as: the Himalayan glaciers “are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate”
(IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007, p. 493).
Later the statement was found to be based on rumours published by environmental groups and magazines. The head of the IPCC, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, had to come out and offer a formal apology for this blunder and said that more studies are needed to confirm the status of these glaciers.
Was it all rumours and no scientific backing to the claims about the melting of Himalayan glaciers?
It seems that most of the past studies were done on low lying glaciers. Measurements and observations were often conducted at the 'tongue' of glaciers, which are mostly at lower altitudes, which, the study published in Nature confirms, are indeed melting faster due to climate warming. What they found is that the higher up glaciers are cold enough to escape the melting in the last decade.
All this is interesting, and hopefully, true. I know from my field studies in the arid Western Himalayas that people there are directly dependent on these glaciers for their water supply.