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Why are scientists in Cancun worried about melting snow on Mt. Everest?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Snow and ice on the world's highest mountain is melting, according to researchers addressing an international gathering in Cancun today. Speaking at the Meeting of the Americas in Mexico researchers say that snow and ice are melting off Mount Everest at an alarming rate.

CANCUN, MEXICO (Catholic Online) - According to researchers, glaciers around Mount Everest have shrunk by about 13 percent in the last 50 years and the snowline has moved upwards by almost 600 feet. Sudeep Thakuri, a researcher from the University of Milan in Italy made the announcement.

At 29,029 feet, Everest is popularly known as the "roof of the world" and is normally cloaked in perpetual snow and ice. To see that even there, global warming is melting the snow, is alarming to some.

However, researchers cautioned that jumping to the global warming conclusion would be premature. Their work, they acknowledge, only measured the amount of snow and ice loss from the mountain and the surrounding region. They did not do any studies to merit claims of causation.

Not all of the glaciers in the Himalayas are melting either, however the majority of them are. Glaciers in the Karakoram Mountains on the border between China, India, and Pakistan appear to be holding steady for now.

The melting of the other glaciers is significant because an approximate 1.5 billion people rely on them for water. Naturally, they must melt in the first place to provide water for those populations, but if they are not replenished during each snowing season, then they could eventually, over many decades, provide diminishing quantities of water and lead to shortages and instability within the region.

Although Everest has lost some of its snowy cap, it is unlikely to be bare of snow anytime soon. Even in the warmest months of the year, the average temperature at the peak is still below zero and never rises above freezing. If anything, the recent warming may make climbing it a bit easier for the hundreds who attempt the feat each year.

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