Climbing Mount Everest has become much more dangerous as climate change brings rising temperatures that melt ice and snow, according to scientists.
Sixteen people were killed when a sudden ice avalanche fell atop a group of Sherpa guides, marking the deadliest disaster on Everest.
Scientists say there will be more such catastrophes in high-altitude regions in the future, as avalanches of ice, snow and rock could increase. As a result, trekking and climbing will become more precarious and glaciers may be unpredictable. Storms will also become more erratic.
"It's Mother Nature who calls the shots," Tim Rippel, an expedition leader, said in a blog post from Everest base camp. "The mountain has been deteriorating rapidly in the past three years due to global warming, and the breakdown in the Khumbu Icefall is dramatic," he said. "We need to learn more about what is going on up there."
But although scientists are certain things are changing, they're not sure how. A lot of the evidence is based on personal accounts, and there isn't sufficient data from scientific observation to make solid conclusions. Glacier studies in the Himalayas have only just begun in the last 10 years, and no one is studying snow patterns on a large scale, said Nepalese glaciologist Rijan Bhakta Kayastha.
Studies show the Himalayas warming at a rate up to three times as high as the last century's average global temperature increase of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
"You can be sure that if the climate is changing -- and it is -- then glaciers are changing and the danger is shifting," said U.S. hydrologist Jeff Kargel of the University of Arizona, who is heading an international project to measure and map the Himalayan glaciers through satellite data. "It doesn't necessarily mean it's getting worse. It just means you don't know" (AP/New York Times, April 23).
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