Several glaciers in the greater Himalayas are either advancing or are stable, American and German researchers have found, corroborating India's stand against a controversial prediction by the UN's climate change agency that the glaciers would vanish by 2030.
More than 50% of the glaciers in the Karakoram region of the northwest Himalayas are stable or are advancing, the scientists have reported in this week's Nature Geoscience journal.
Dirk Scherler and Manfred Strecker from Potsdam University, Germany and Bodo Bookhagen from the University of California Santa Barbara used remoter sensing images to track frontal changes and surface velocities of glaciers in the greater Himalaya between 2000 and 2008.
They found wide variations in the response of glaciers in the different parts of the Himalayas to climate change.
The research paper argues that the variations are a result of differences in the debris cover enjoyed by different glaciers – a factor that has so far been neglected while studying the impact of climate change on glaciers.
The scientists found that while more than 65% of all Himalayan glaciers studied were retreating, the glaciers in the Tibetan plateau, where debris cover is largely absent, are retreating fastest.
Glaciers in the central Himalaya region are relatively better covered by debris and typically have stable fronts, the scientists argued.
But possibly the most surprising finding of the research relates to the Karakoram region, where more than half the glaciers are stable or are even advancing.
The findings support India's opposition to claims by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN's climate change agency -- in 2008 of the Himalayan glaciers disappearing.
Indian scientists had countered the IPCC claims by presenting their own data that suggested that any impact of climate change on the Himalayan glaciers was far more subtle and complicated than the IPCC had suggested.