Himalaya Glaciers Steady Decline

October 12, 2011


Stunning images from high in the Himalayas – showing the extent by which many glaciers have shrunk in the past 80 years or so – have gone on display at the Royal Geographical Society in central London.

Between 2007 and 2010, David Breashears retraced the steps of early photographic pioneers such as Major E O Wheeler, George Mallory and Vittorio Sella – to try to re-take their views of breathtaking glacial vistas.

The mountaineer and photographer is the founder of GlacierWorks – a non-profit organisation that uses art, science and adventure to raise public awareness about the consequences of climate change in the Himalayas.

9 Responses to “Himalaya Glaciers Steady Decline”

  1. Martin_Lack Says:

    I am very fortunate to have been able to trek to Everest Base Camp (5356m) and Kala Patthar (5545m) in Nepal, but these photos (and their salutory message) are still, truly, awesome (in every sense of the word).

    Does the hard evidence in these photos for vertical loss of ice thicnkess and, in some cases, glacier retreat over 100’s if not 1000’s of metres, finally act as a nail in the coffin of the sceptics who claim the IPCC deliberately over-stated this problem?

    Whatever mistake Rajendra Pachaurimade, surely these photos surely vinidcate our need to be concerned about what we are doing to this planet?

    When we start having irretrievable effects on things like whole freaking mountain ranges that have been around for 55 million years, is it not time to apologise for our stupidity?

  2. otter17 Says:

    As far as Asia’s water supply in 50 years, has anyone been able to determine if some adaptation measures could be put in place to account for seasonal rivers? Are there dam sites big enough to hold the seasonal deluge of mountain runoff after the glaciers are gone? Will the winter snowpack decrease significantly in the Himalayas?

    I ought to check the IPCC report working group two under the “Asia” region.

    • Daneel Says:

      Take a look at this recent paper:

      Will climate change exacerbate water stress in Central Asia?
      We have developed a coupled climate, land-ice and rainfall-runoff model for the Syr Darya to quantify impacts and show that climatic changes are likely to have consequences on runoff seasonality due to earlier snow-melt. This will increase water stress in unregulated catchments because less water will be available for irrigation in the summer months. Threats from geohazards, above all glacier lake outbursts, are likely to increase as well. The area at highest risk is the densely populated, agriculturally productive, and politically unstable Fergana Valley. Targeted infrastructural developments will be required in the region. If the current mismanagement of water and energy resources can be replaced with more effective resource allocation mechanisms through the strengthening of transboundary institutions, Central Asia will be able to successfully address these future climate-related challenges.

  3. Myra Rooney Says:

    What I wish he would have confirmed is whether or not the photos were taken at the same time in seasons or seasonal changes… Were the old photographs taken in the winter season and the new ones in a summer season? Is there an constant change in snow pack and ice / moisture levels there as there is here in the Rockies? Are there any documented 5 or 10 year fluctuations that occur naturally? I love the message he is conveying but I wish he would have included commentary on the possibilities of intentional messaging or opportunistic capturing of images to convey a specific message while not including all the facts that could provide a simple and natural explanation for the significant difference in appearance. (It would help skeptics to truly understand that it IS in fact happening)

  4. sinchiroca Says:

    Well, there is some small consolation here: if they do indeed build dams to provide irrigation water in the summer, those dams will also supply plenty of hydroelectric power, reducing the need for coal-burning plants. Unfortunately, it will be too late… but perhaps it can shave a little off temperature rises even further in the future.

    What some viewers will not realize is that most of the changes in these glaciers have occurred in the last 30 years; the loss from 1921 to 1970 or so was minor. The most striking before-and-after photos of glaciers all use pictures taken in the 50s and 60s.

  5. Donald Says:

    Great photos ๐Ÿ™‚

    What was the rate of melting for the 80 years PRIOR to your own work, was it the same as your observations?, was it faster? was it slower? what about the 80 years before that and the 80 years before that? ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    Stick to photography, you don’t seem to understand that science demands more than just pretty pictures.

    please don’t spread lies, just tell the truth … something like …

    “In the last 80 years this is the rate of melting we found, but we have nothing for the 80 years prior to that to compare it with …. so these pictures really prove nothing more than the fact that cameras take great shots at high altitude”

    Try that bit of truth. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    • Martin_Lack Says:

      Donald, Since you have decided to ejaculate yourself into this discussion, I will post my response to your disingenuous nonsense here too:

      The landscape of the Himalayas (like any other) is a bit like a puzzle โ€“ if you know how to read it, it can tell you a story: We know how long the mountains have been there; and we know how long they have been glaciated. Since there is no evidence for glaciation in valleys below the current tree line at about 3800m (i.e. rather than being U-shaped; they are V shaped and often partially filled with glacial meltwater deposits), we can be certain that the glaciers seen in 1920s/30s had not been retreating or diminishing at anything like current rates (if at all).

      On the contrary, there is therefore strong evidence to suggest that input (snow) and output (meltwater) have maintained a dynamic balance for millions of years. This is what the planet does; this is what it is good at doing; and this is what we are now messing-up.

      Given that you do not dispute that the planet is warming-up, I just don’t understand why you feel the need to try and undermine arguments that encourage people to be concerned about what humanity is now doing to the planet.

  6. Donald Says:

    However, I must say that I think the sacrifice you are making should be noted and maybe even admired……

    Let’s hope you get lots of donations to help maintain your $30 a year DotCOm, I’m sure you couldn’t pay such a huge amount on your own; not even for the sake of the world.

    I mean that’s what it’s all about; ain’t it ?

    So let me get this right ….

    You are debunking crap ….. and asking for donations? ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    Oh boy …. I have got to find me one of these gimmicks ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. […] Starting in 2007, photographer and mountaineer David Breashears recreated photographs of the Himalayas shot by early adventurers like George Mallory, E. O. Wheeler, and Vittorio Sella. His images showing the destruction by global warming pollution of skyscraper-tall glaciers are now on display at the Royal Geographic Society. (HT: Climate Crocks) […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: