Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Impact of Climate Change on Everest

There is no denying that climate change is having a major impact on our planet. Temperatures are warming, ice caps are melting, and ocean levels are rising. As a result, some of our most iconic places are now starting to be undeniably altered by this shift in our environment. That includes Everest, where the effects of climate change are becoming more and more evident with each passing year.

Outside Online has the story of two researchers who have traveled to Nepal this spring to study the effects of climate change on the mountain. In particular, they are watching how warming temperatures are impacting the Khumbu Glacier, which has been receding for years. That will have a direct impact on climbing the mountain, making it even more difficult and potentially deadly. 

Everest Base Camp sits just below the Khumbu Icefall, an important section of any Everest climb on the south side of the mountain. Mountaineers must pass through this dangerous section using ropes and ladders that must be carefully placed, and meticulously maintained, for the entire season. But as the glacier melts, the Icefall could disappear altogether, making it almost impossible to climb Everest from the Nepali side. Perhaps a new route would be revealed under the ice, but that isn't likely.

Additionally, the crumbling glacier has also made the trek from BC up to Camp 1 a lot more dangerous, as evidenced in 2014 when 16 porters were killed in an avalanche. More avalanches are likely to take place in that section of the climb as temperatures rise and the glacier continues to feel the stress. 

The Outside article goes into more depth on the impact of climate change not just on the mountain itself, and the Khumbu Glacier, which is a source for fresh water further down the valley. As the glacier continues to recede, that water will become more scarce, directly impacting the people who live in the area. 

This is a sobering piece about how climate change is already having a major impact on a part of the world that is now seeing dramatic changes. Soon, it will become even more difficult for us to bury our heads in the sand over this issue as the effects begin to be felt in more widespread parts of the world. Hopefully we can do something about it before its too late. 

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