Briton shows impact of Himalayan climate change

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Swiss glaciologist Fritz Muller spent eight months in the Mount Everest region in the 1950s studying and taking pictures of the glaciers, mountains and valleys in the Khumbu area, home to the world’s highest mountain.

A visitor looks at the Himalaya-Changing Landscapes Photo exhibition at Hanuman Dhoka durbar Square in Kathmandu December 4, 2008. REUTERS/Shruti Shrestha

More than 50 years later British mountain geographer Alton Byers took photographs of many of the same sites as Muller, and the old and new images are now on display side by side in a week-long exhibition in Kathmandu.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which organised the “Himalaya - Changing Landscapes” exhibit, aim to highlight the impact of climate change on the world’s highest mountain range.

“Warming in the Himalayan region has been much greater than the global average and the rising temperatures are leading to rapid melting of the glaciers,” said the Kathmandu-based ICIMOD, which studies the people and environment in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya regions.

Thousands of glaciers in the Himalayas supply water to ten major Asian rivers whose basins are home to 1.5 billion people from Pakistan to Myanmar, including parts of India and China.

Experts say global temperature increased by an average of 0.74 degrees Celsius (33.3 Fahrenheit) over the past 100 years.

ICIMOD says the impact of climate change was especially evident in the region with the largest concentration of snow and ice outside the two poles.

The photographs, on display since late last week, show a striking visual impression of how climate change and glacial melting were affecting the region.

A 50-year-old photograph of the Imja glacier in the Everest region shows an impressive layer of ice and several ponds.

But by 2008, those ponds grew and merged, forming the Imja lake which risks bursting its natural dam.

ICIMOD Director General Andreas Schild said the changes were alarming and need immediate action.

“Scientific evidence shows that the effects of globalisation and climate change are being felt in even the most remote Himalayan environments,” he said.

“Signs are visible, but there is very little in-depth knowledge and data available from the Himalayan region.”

Another picture of Mount Ama Dablam showed the recession of more than a hundred metres of ice. Slopes once covered with ice are now barren rock.

Officials say 14 of the estimated 3,200 glaciers in Nepal are at the risk of bursting their dams with devastating effects to villages downstream.

Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Miral Fahmy