The findings are particularly dire for India’s northeastern region. The study says the eastern Himalayas could face a near-total loss of glaciers, around 95%, if global warming goes unchecked. Even in the best scenario (of 1.50 C warming), the region is likely to lose 64% of its glaciers by year 2100, it says.
The glaciers in the HKH region, spanning eight countries from Afghanistan to Myanmar, have the biggest store of ice outside the poles. The region, sometimes referred to as the “third pole”, supplies water to nearly 2 billion people.
“This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” said Philippus Wester of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, who led the study that says even if carbon emissions are dramatically cut under the most ambitious goals of the Paris climate accord, 36% of the glaciers in the region will have gone by 2100.
For India, one of the most alarming finding is on the glaciers in east Himalayas that feed northeast India. “Based on a compilation of area change studies, eastern Himalaya glaciers have tended to shrink faster than glaciers in central or western Himalaya,” it says.
On the other hand, in a surprising finding, the study indicates that the western Himalayas – including J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand – may see an increase in glacier mass because the region, along with the Karakoram, has a higher probability of snowfall.