Written by Elizabeth Kepl, ESLLC 2015-2106
David Breashears, a mountaineer, author, and filmmaker is currently doing a film project on the receding glaciers in the Khumbu valley. When our group first arrived at our hotel in Kathmandu we met David and he explained his project and what was behind the receding glaciers in Nepal. He has summited Mt. Everest multiple times and has spent many years added up in the Himalayas. His work involves taking time lapses of the glaciers over the years, studying the receding processes, and how much the glacier recedes per year. He explained how global warming is actually not the cause of receding glaciers, but particulate on the glacier. Although, the particulate in the air from pollution is also one of the causes of global warming, he explains to us that our glaciers are affected by particles in the air that land on them.
The particulate that lands on the snow is much darker than the white glacier underneath it. As the particles gather on top of the snow and ice, they make the top of the glacier darker and darker. The blacker color on the surface attracts heat from the sun and heats up the glacier exponentially faster than the white glacier would. This ultimately causes the glaciers to melt faster and is making the glaciers on our planet recede.
In certain areas glaciers are used for recreation, mainly for summer skiing. This is another big issue that causes our glaciers to melt. For freestyle camps, the snow on the glacier is moved to build jumps and moguls making the glacier melt in certain areas faster than others. For alpine racing camps, gates are drilled into the ground to set up courses which cause an increase in temperature more towards the middle of the glacier. Both of these types of camps use salt to make the snow hard, but this melts the top layer and that snow is lost and the next layer that is melted turns into something close to ice. These camps destroy our glaciers, for example, the Blackcomb glacier has receded 90% faster during each summer the camps have been open. The glacier has been losing mass at an alarming rate of half a million cubic meters annually.
The melting of glaciers is causing the sea level to rise which endangers the islands and coastlines of continents on this planet. It also endangers species of animals, mainly in the far north and south poles. The rising of water, as well as the warming of water, affects the environment for many other species living in the oceans. Migration of certain sea creatures has been changed because of rising water temperatures which is also causing the glaciers to melt ultimately making the sea levels rise.
Glaciers are something we have to keep in mind when we try to eliminate or slow down climate change. The pollution in the air not only causes climate change, but also causes our glaciers to melt as David Breashears taught us in his studies in Nepal. The particulate on the glaciers cause them to heat up and melt which in turn changes the environment for the worse, endangering many species, as well as endangering our glaciers.