Three new studies from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development detail the impact of climate change in the Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountain range.
IPCC head Dr Rajendra Pachauri says they "provide a new baseline...for understanding climate change in one of the most vulnerable ecosystem in the world."What the studies found:
Based on remote sensing studies, there are 54,000 glaciers in the region, covering some 60,000 square kilometers. Of these just ten have been regularly studied. Nevertheless the studies show that the rate of glacier loss has doubled between 1980 and 2000, and 1996 and 2005. In the Mount Everest region, glacier loss "showed a marked acceleration" between 2002 and 2005. Over the past 30 years, Nepal has lost 21% of its glacier cover, with Bhutan losing 22%. Glaciers in Tibet are retreating most quickly, as they have lower debris cover which slows the rate of melting.
In terms of snow cover, in the central Himalayan-Hindu Kush region there has been an overall decrease in snow cover, while eastern and western parts of the region have seen an increase.
As far as temperature rise is concerned, "The rise in temperature has been greater at higher altitudes and more pronounced during cooler months than in the warmer months. This imbalance narrows the seasonal variation in temperature, potentially favoring some plant species over other others and already having impacts on agriculture."
Warming across the Himalaya-Hindu Kush region has been 0.74°C higher than the global average over the past 100 years, with warming on the Tibetan plateau being particularly pronounced, 1.35°C higher than the global average.