2,000 years of Mount Everest ice growth melts in 30 years

Scientists fear South Col Glacier could vanish

Ice at Mount Everest’s tallest glacier is melting 80 times more quickly than the time it took to form, scientists have warned.

Researchers from the University of Maine in the US studied the ice at the South Col Glacier (SCG) and discovered ice that took 2,000 years to develop has disappeared in 30 years.

The study, which was published in the Nature Portfolio Journal Climate and Atmospheric Research, found that around 55m of ice has been lost.

A key part of the study involved extracting a piece of ice from the SCG at a height so great it was 1,000m higher than the formerly highest ice cylinder ever extracted.

The scientists analysed this 10m ice core, which contained layers of yearly ice growth, much like tree rings, and radiocarbon dating showed that the surface ice was around 2,000 years old. This meant the ice that had been laid down over the last two thousand years had gone.

The researchers believe that the majority of this ice has been lost since the 1990s and that if the melting continues at the same pace, the South Col Glacier “is probably going to disappear within very few decades”.

Expedition head and lead scientist Paul Mayewski told National Geographic that the findings add to the growing evidence that climate change is altering even the most remote parts of the planet.

“We know the oceans are polluted, we know that they are warming and acidifying,” he said. “We know that there are times even in mid-winter when warm air masses reach the North Pole and temperatures there are above freezing. We know that there are certain times in summer when the entire surface of the Greenland ice sheet is melting.

“And now, we have the evidence that even the highest glacier on the highest mountain in the world is rapidly losing its ice. So yes, it’s a real wake-up call.”

“Now we have the evidence that even the highest glacier on the highest mountain in the world is rapidly losing its ice… it’s a real wake-up call.” Expedition head and lead scientist Paul Mayewski

 

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