Memo on 2035

Last Sunday, Times online reported "2035" ...
The New Scientist report was apparently forgotten until 2005 when WWF cited it in a report called An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China. The report credited Hasnain's 1999 interview with the New Scientist. But it was a campaigning report rather than an academic paper so it was not subjected to any formal scientific review. Despite this it rapidly became a key source for the IPCC when Lal and his colleagues came to write the section on the Himalayas.

When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was "very high". The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90%.

[World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown (2010/01/17) on The Sunday Times ]

Here's the very point of IPCC 2007:
[IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 -- Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaption and Vulnerability]

10.6.2 The Himalayan glaciers

Himalayan glaciers cover about three million hectares or 17% of the mountain area as compared to 2.2% in the Swiss Alps. They form the largest body of ice outside the polar caps and are the source of water for the innumerable rivers that flow across the Indo-Gangetic plains. Himalayan glacial snowfields store about 12,000 km3 of freshwater. About 15,000 Himalayan glaciers form a unique reservoir which supports perennial rivers such as the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra which, in turn, are the lifeline of millions of people in South Asian countries (Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh). The Gangetic basin alone is home to 500 million people, about 10% of the total human population in the region.

Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).

Table 10.9. Record of retreat of some glaciers in the Himalaya.

Glacier Period Retreat of Average retreat
snout (metre) of glacier (metre/year)
Triloknath Glacier (Himachal Pradesh) 1969 to 1995 400 15.4
Pindari Glacier (Uttaranchal) 1845 to 1966 2,840 135.2
Milam Glacier (Uttaranchal) 1909 to 1984 990 13.2
Ponting Glacier (Uttaranchal) 1906 to 1957 262 5.1
Chota Shigri Glacier (Himachal Pradesh) 1986 to 1995 60 6.7
Bara Shigri Glacier (Himachal Pradesh) 1977 to 1995 650 36.1
Gangotri Glacier (Uttaranchal) 1977 to 1990 364 28.0
Gangotri Glacier (Uttaranchal) 1985 to 2001 368 23.0
Zemu Glacier (Sikkim) 1977 to 1984 194 27.7

The receding and thinning of Himalayan glaciers can be attributed primarily to the global warming due to increase in anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases. The relatively high population density near these glaciers and consequent deforestation and land-use changes have also adversely affected these glaciers. The 30.2 km long Gangotri glacier has been receding alarmingly in recent years (Figure 10.6). Between 1842 and 1935, the glacier was receding at an average of 7.3 m every year; the average rate of recession between 1985 and 2001 is about 23 m per year (Hasnain, 2002). The current trends of glacial melts suggest that the Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra and other rivers that criss-cross the northern Indian plain could likely become seasonal rivers in the near future as a consequence of climate change and could likely affect the economies in the region. Some other glaciers in Asia ? such as glaciers shorter than 4 km length in the Tibetan Plateau ? are projected to disappear and the glaciated areas located in the headwaters of the Changjiang River will likely decrease in area by more than 60% (Shen et al., 2002)
This has referred WWF 2005, which describes ...
[An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China]

Overview of the problem

The New Scientist magazine carried the article “Flooded Out ? Retreating glaciers spell disaster for valley communities” in their 5 June 1999 issue. It quoted Professor Syed Hasnain, then Chairman of the International Commission for Snow and Ice’s (ICSI) Working Group on Himalayan Glaciology, who said most of the glaciers in the Himalayan region “will vanish within 40 years as a result of global warming”. The article also predicted that freshwater flow in rivers across South Asia will “eventually diminish, resulting in widespread water shortages”.


The prediction that “glaciers in the region will vanish within 40 years as a result of global warming” and that the flow of Himalayan rivers will “eventually diminish, resulting in widespread water shortages” (New Scientist 1999; 1999, 2003) is equally disturbing. In the context of India this spells bigger trouble for the 500 million inhabitants of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins, who rely on the perennial supply of melt-water from the Himalayas (Sharma 2001). The problems of water stress are already prevalent in the region due to increasing demands of domestic, agriculture, industry and a growing population. Any reduction in the availability of freshwater could have serious consequences for the economy, the environment and the daily lives of many millions of people within the affected basins and beyond. The following sections describe the physical and climatological characteristics of the Himalayan region and assess the impacts of future deglaciation in the Himalayan region in context of freshwater resources.

127.New Scientist, 1999. “Flooded Out: Retreating glaciers spell disaster for valley communities”, 5th June, 1999, p. 18.
Surely WWF 2005 refers below article on NewScientist:
Fred Pearce: "Flooded out" (1999/06/05) on NewScientist]

MELTING Himalayan glaciers are threatening to unleash a torrent of floods into mountain valleys, and ultimately dry up rivers across South Asia. A new study, due to be presented in July to the International Commission on Snow and Ice (ICSI), predicts that most of the glaciers in the region will vanish within 40 years as a result of global warming.

"All the glaciers in the middle Himalayas are retreating," says Syed Hasnain of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the chief author of the ICSI report. A typical example is the Gangorti glacier at the head of the River Ganges, which is retreating at a rate of 30 metres per year. Hasnain's four-year study indicates that all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear by 2035 at their present rate of decline.

The very author of this article has wrote on the article on TimesOnline.
[Fred Pearce: "Debate heats up over IPCC melting glaciers claim"

Chapter 10 of the report says: "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world."

The inclusion of this statement has angered many glaciologists, who regard it as unjustified. Vijay Raina, a leading Indian glaciologist, wrote in a discussion paper published by the Indian government in November that there is no sign of "abnormal" retreat in Himalayan glaciers. India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, accused the IPCC of being "alarmist".

The IPCC's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, has hit back, denouncing the Indian government report as "voodoo science" lacking peer review. He adds that "we have a very clear idea of what is happening" in the Himalayas.


Graham Cogley, a geographer from Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, says the 2035 date is extremely unlikely. "At current melting rates it might take up to 10 times longer," he says.


Hasnain rejects that. He blames the IPCC for misusing a remark he made to a journalist. "The magic number of 2035 has not [been] mentioned in any research papers written by me, as no peer-reviewed journal will accept speculative figures," he told New Scientist.

"It is not proper for IPCC to include references from popular magazines or newspapers," Hasnain adds.


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