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Slow flow for glaciers thinning in Asia

10 December 2018

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Providing water for drinking, irrigation and power, glaciers in the world's highest mountains are a lifeline for more than a billion people. As climate change takes a grip and glaciers lose mass, one might think that, lubricated by more meltwater, they flow more quickly. However, satellite images from over the last 30 years show that it isn't as simple as that.

A paper published recently in Nature Geoscience describes how a multitude of satellite images have been used to reveal that there has actually been a slowdown in the rate at which glaciers slide down the high mountains of Asia.

High-mountain Asia stretches from the Tien Shan and Hindu Kush in the northwest, to the eastern Himalayas in the southeast. The area is also part of what is known as 'the third pole' because these high-altitude ice fields contain the largest reserve of freshwater outside the polar regions.

The source of the 10 major river systems, the third pole provides freshwater for over 1.3 billion people in Asia – nearly 20% of the world's population.

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