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Climate change likely triggered deadly 2016 avalanche in Tibet

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  11 Dec 2016 12:00 AM GMT

New York, Dec 10: Climate change is to blame for a deadly glacier collapse this year in the once stable region of the Tibetan Plateau, says a study. On July 17, more than 70 million tonnes of ice broke off from the Aru glacier in the mountains of western Tibet and tumbled into a valley below, taking the lives of nine nomadic yak herders living there. Glacial collapse is unprecedented in western Tibet, which for decades has resisted the effects of climate change while glaciers in southern and eastern Tibet have melted at an accelerating rate. The most important fact about the avalanche is that it lasted only four or five minutes (according to witnesses), yet it maged to bury 3.7 square miles of the valley floor in that time, said Lonnie Thompson, Professor at The Ohio State University in the US. Meltwater at the base of the glacier must have lubricated the ice to speed its flow down the mountain, said the study. “We still don’t know exactly where the meltwater came from, but given that the average temperature at the nearest weather station has risen by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the last 50 years, it makes sense that snow and ice are melting and the resulting water is seeping down beneath the glacier,” Thompson said. Increased snowfall has even led to the expansion of some glaciers in western Tibet - and the extra snowfall likely played some role in the avalanche by creating additiol meltwater, said lead author of the paper Lide Tian from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (IANS)

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