In for a meltdown | india | Hindustan Times
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In for a meltdown

The latest report from scientists studying glacial movement in Greenland says that the ice melt is so high that current predictions of how quickly Earth?s oceans will rise over the next century have become obsolete.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 03:26 IST
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The latest report from scientists studying glacial movement in Greenland says that the ice melt is so high that current predictions of how quickly Earth’s oceans will rise over the next century have become obsolete. Today’s estimates of rise in sea levels are around 50 cm over the next century — a figure that suddenly seems too low as the worst fears of climate scientists look set to come true.

From Bolivia to the Himalayas, vanishing glaciers are poised to unleash widespread flooding and storms in low-lying areas worldwide. The effects of global warming never looked so sinister as these studies remind us how seemingly small changes in temperature could have extensive effects on large ice fields. Melting glaciers in the Himalayas, for instance, could mean acute water shortage. A recent study suggests that at the current rate of glacier melt, it may not be too long before glacier-fed rivers in India, China, and Nepal swell with the melt water. Widespread flooding of the plains, followed by droughts as water levels in rivers start falling, would trigger enormous ecological problems. And people depend on glaciers not just for water, but also for electricity.

Since Himalayan glaciers get snow during the monsoons, they are very sensitive to climate changes with even half a degree rise in temperature changing ice to water. So could it be possible that their accelerated retreat and the recent extreme weather patterns in the subcontinent are linked? We will only know when scientific models for accurately quantifying melts on remote glaciers are available in a few years’ time. Unfortunately as of now, we are not sure how we can answer the bigger question: what we can do about it?