From: Alister Doyle, Retuers Environment Correspondent OSLO
Published January 24, 2011 07:05 AM

While some Himalayan glaciers retreat, others are growing

Some Himalayan glaciers are advancing despite an overall retreat, according to a study on Sunday that is a step toward understanding how climate change affects vital river flows from China to India.


A blanket of dust and rock debris was apparently shielding some glaciers in the world's highest mountain range from a thaw, a factor omitted from past global warming reports. And varying wind patterns might explain why some were defying a melt.

"Our study shows there is no uniform response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change and highlights the importance of debris cover," scientists at universities in Germany and the United States wrote in the study of 286 glaciers.

The findings underscore that experts in the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were wrong to say in a 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers could vanish by 2035 in a headlong thaw. The panel corrected the error in 2010.

The report said that 58 percent of glaciers examined in the westerly Karakoram range of the Himalayas were stable or advancing, perhaps because they were influenced by cool westerly winds than the monsoon from the Indian Ocean.

Elsewhere in the Himalayas "more than 65 percent of the monsoon-influenced glaciers ... are retreating," they wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience of the satellite study from 2000 to 2008. Some glaciers that were stable in length were covered by a thick layer of rocky debris.

"Overall in the Himalayas, the glaciers are retreating," Dirk Scherler, the lead author at the University of Potsdam in Germany, told Reuters.

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