Impact of climate change on the Himalaya far less than estimated

Climate change in the Himalaya is far less than previoiusly thoughtA new climate change study, released this past Thursday, has surprised some experts and blown some major holes in the doom and gloom predictions that have been given out in recent years. In fact, the new study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature, found that there has been virtually no ice lost in the Himalaya over the past decade, which runs contrary to reports that many climatologists have given over that same time period.

In this new study, satellites were used for the first time to track the loss of ice in glaciers and the polar ice caps. Previously, teams of scientists would have to visit the glaciers themselves, and measure the changes manually. This was a time consuming and challenging process, and only allowed them to visit a few locations. The satellites gave researchers the opportunity to see the big picture more fully, and what they found was quite surprising.

Previous climate change studies estimated that the loss of ice in the Himalaya Mountains was quickly approaching 50 billion tons per year, but the satellites showed that the actual loss was closer to 4 billion tons annually, which one scientist in the study labeled as insignificant. That means that while the glaciers are indeed still melting, they are doing it at a far less alarming rate than we’ve been led to believe in the past. Researchers went on to say that the contribution to rising sea levels, from these melting glaciers and the ice caps, was less than half what had been predicted by other recent reports.

This research project began in 2003 and ran through 2010, giving the scientists involved an opportunity to observe changes over a substantial amount of time. Their findings fly in the face of predictions from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which once predicted that the Himalayan glaciers could be completely gone by 2035, a statement they were forced to retract later.

All of these different climate change reports just indicate to me that we really don’t know what the hell is going on with our planet.

Man arrested for stealing glacier in Chile

A glacier thief has been arrested in Chile. Late last week, law enforcement officials in Chile detained a man for allegedly stealing part of a glacier from inside Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, located in the Patagonia region. It is believed that the thief intended to sell the ice to various clubs in the capital city of Santiago, where it would be put into expensive designer drinks.

Police stopped the man, who was driving a large refrigerated truck, for a routine traffic violation, but were surprised to find that he had five tons of ice hidden in the back. Upon further examination, they discovered that the ice had come from the Jorge Montt Glacier, which is located not far from where the man was apprehended. So far, the driver has only been charged with theft, but officials are considering extending the charges to violating a national monument as well, since the ice came from inside a national park.

It is estimated that the five tons of ice would have sold for about $6300 had the man been able to deliver it to is buyers in Santiago. That doesn’t seem like a lot of money for harvesting so much ice.

Global climate change has played havoc on glaciers throughout Patagonia, and the Jorge Montt is no exception. Scientists say that is is currently retreating at a rate of about a half-mile per year, which is an alarmingly fast pace. The question now of course is how much of that is due to these nefarious ice thieves?

Famous Sherpas to hike the length of the Great Himalaya Trail

The Great Himalaya TrailTwo famous Nepalese Sherpas are preparing to hike the entire length of the Great Himalaya Trail in an effort to raise awareness of the effects of climate change on the region. The duo will set out on January 15th and hope to encourage economic development along the new trekking route as well.

Apa Sherpa and Dawa Steven Sherpa will begin their journey in eastern Nepal in the village of Ghunsa and will travel 1056 miles west until they reach the town of Darchula. The entire hike is expected to take roughly 120 days to complete, passing through 20 different districts along the way.

While the GHT is an impressively long trek, it is the altitude that presents the biggest challenge for most hikers. It is considered the highest long distance trail in the world, rising above 18,880 feet at its tallest point. That altitude isn’t likely to be a problem for these two men however, as they have both climbed Everest multiple times. In fact, Apa holds the record for most successful summits, having scaled the highest mountain on the planet 21 times. Dawa Steven has stood on the summit of the mountain twice as well, giving the men plenty of experience at high altitude.

In addition to the altitude, the GHT is known for its incredibly scenic vistas as well. The Himalayan Mountains make a breathtaking backdrop for the trek, but climate change is having a dramatic impact on that place. As the planet has warmed, the glaciers throughout the region have gone into retreat, severely limiting the amount of fresh water that is available to the people who live there. Even now, many of those people have to walk several hours each day just to collect water for their daily use. The two Sherpas hope to spread the news on this impending crisis in their home country.

Climate change isn’t their only priority however, as they hope to encourage economic development along the Great Himalaya Trail as well. The route opened earlier this year, and while hikers have begun walking the route, the infrastructure to support them is not fully in place yet. Apa and Dawa Steven hope that their hike will help bring attention to the trail that will also inspire new restaurants and inns to open along its length, making it easier for adventure travelers to undertake the long distance trek.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives launches coral reef regeneration project

coral reef maldivesThe Maldives coral reefs comprise the eighth largest reef system in the world. But active tourism and fishing industries, as well as global phenomena like climate change and El Nino, are taking its toll. And because the islands of the Maldives are low-lying, the coral reefs are even more important as a barrier against sea-level rise and storms.

To do its part, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives is now allowing guests to help restore its surrounding coral reef ecosystem through a partnership with Seamarc, a marine consultancy that has developed an innovative new coral propagation technique for “replanting” parts of the reef.

For $150, guests can select and transplant a small portion of coral reef in the area surrounding the resort. The whole process takes one hour, and involves selecting a plot of living but damaged or threatened coral that has been harvested by Seamarc, attaching the plot to a lightweight frame structure, and transplanting it in the resort’s lagoon. Guests can then monitor the growth and progress of their coral reef plot through a dedicated website.

The program may not completely offset the environmental impact of the Waldorf Astoria and other luxury resorts on the Maldives coral reefs, but it’s a start.

Explorer to make back-to-back journey to North and South Pole

Mark Wood will visit both the North and South PoleBritish adventurer Mark Wood is currently in Punta Arenas, Chile where he is preparing to start an epic journey. If all goes as planned, later this week, Mark will fly to the Antarctic, where he’ll begin a four-month odyssey that will take him to both the North and South Poles back-toback. While he certainly won’t be the first person to visit those two remote places, he does hope to become the first to make consecutive journeys to the opposite ends of the Earth.

Weather permitting, the first stage of the expedition will begin on Wednesday, when Wood will start his solo and unassisted trek to the South Pole. That leg of the journey is expected to take roughly 50 days to complete and will cover approximately 680 miles of ice and snow. Upon arriving at his destination, Wood will be picked up by plane and shuttled back to Chile, where he’ll immediately set off for Canada to start the second stage of the expedition. That will entail crossing another 700 miles of ice, over an estimated 65 day period, culminating with his arrival at the North Pole. If he is successful, he’ll then be plucked from the ice once again, and flown directly to an environmental conference that will focus on the effects of climate change.

In order to reach the two Poles, Wood will travel on skis, dragging a sled behind him. That sled will be weighted down with his gear, food, and other supplies, enabling him to survive for weeks on end, by himself, without any outside assistance. While on the trail, he’ll burn in excess of 8000 calories per day, enduring bitterly cold temperatures, whiteout conditions, and treacherous terrain.
Wood is making this journey to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on our planet and he is asking for support from others to help him achieve his goal. But rather than looking for monetary donations, Mark is instead asking for others to pledge to do some simple environmental actions that will cumulatively amount to a savings 100,000 kilograms of CO2. You can find out more about this program, and pledge your support, on the expedition’s DoNation page.

It will be a tremendous display of strength and endurance if Wood is able to pull this off. Spending 115 nearly-consecutive days in polar environments, alone no less, will take its toll on anyone. Additionally, the changes to our planet have made it increasingly more difficult to travel by foot to the North Pole, so he’ll have to have a bit of luck on his side for that to happen as well. Still, you have to applaud his ambitions and wish him the best along the way.

[Photo courtesy of Mark Wood]