June 01, 2007 | Graham

Is Everest really suffering from climate change?

Today’s Courier Mail and apparently at least 58 other newspapers around the world. have bought the Greenpeace line that Mt Everest is suffering because of climate change.
With an average summer temperature of -19 degrees centigrade at the summit, it is hard to see global warming having too much effect on snow cover. With even a 10 degrees increase in average temperature it would still average -9 degrees, and that’s summer.
More likely that the lack of snow is caused by a lack of precipitation – the same problem that Mt Kilimanjaro has.
Interesting that none of the articles I’ve read question the Greenpeace assertion. Seems that when you get a paradigm shift in place you have more chance of questioning it than you have of stopping the shift of a glacier downhill.

Posted by Graham at 2:05 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Environment


  1. Who says snow cover is diminishing at the summit of Mt Everest? (That’s not what the Greenpeace photos showed.) I’ve seen no evidence that it is, and there is evidence that precipitation is increasing, not diminishing. From http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6665257.stm last month:
    “As the effects of climate change become ever more visible in the central Himalayas, Nepal’s mountain community is worried by the rise in precipitation across the region, including popular destinations such as Mount Everest and the Annapurnas.
    “Ang Tsering Sherpa, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, says expedition teams are facing new hazards en route to the peaks, which he believes are caused by global warming.
    “‘Climate change has made the weather conditions extremely unpredictable across the mountains,’ Sherpa, who has been organising Himalayan expeditions for nearly two decades years, told the BBC.
    “‘For example, in seasons when we don’t normally expect any snowfall, we see heavy snowfalls. And in seasons when we expect heavy snowfalls, we have no snowfalls at all. We are worried.'”
    What is actually happening is that glaciers are melting from their bottoms, upwards:
    “Average temperatures are rising annually at a rate of 0.06C in Nepal, according to the country’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology.
    “‘Global warming rates in different parts of the country vary,’ says Saraju Baidya, a meteorologist at the department, which has been collecting data from around the country for 30 years.
    “‘In the Himalayan region, we have found out that the rate of warming, on average at 0.12C, is higher than in many places.’
    “He and his colleagues say climate change has caused glaciers in the northern Himalayas to retreat at a rate never seen before, posing the threat of ‘glacial lake outburst floods’ (Glofs).
    “Experts like Mr Baidya say there were hardly any glacial lakes in the Himalayas 50 or 60 years ago. Today, however, things have changed.”
    The current base of the East Rongbuk Glacier, shown in the Courier news report photos, is currently at 5,760 metres, rather lower than Mt Everest’s 8,848 metre peak.
    By the way, ice sublimates, turning directly into water vapour in a low humidity climate. That’s how freeze-dried coffee is made, and why, if you leave a tray of ice cubes in your freezer for a long time, they slowly disappear.
    Graham, your link doesn’t work. Try http://www.google.com.au/news?hl=en&ned=au&ie=UTF-8&q=%22mt+everest%22+%22climate+change%22+greenpeace&btnG=Search

    Comment by MikeM — June 4, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

  2. Mike, the News article (presumably syndicated to the CM) says: “In a picture taken in 1968, the Middle Rongbuk glacier skirts through the mountain valley with the peaks above thickly covered with snow.
    But almost exactly the same shot taken this year by a Greenpeace team reveals much barer peaks and a scarcely visible glacier.” So snow is one of the issues.
    If sublimation is the issue, it doesn’t sound like precipitation is occurring to the extent it was, contra the Sherpa, because sublimation requires very dry winds. And presumably the snow isn’t being replaced.
    According to the reports you quote the increase in temperature in the last 30 years would be 3.6 C. Seems unlikely to be the cause given the very low temperatures to start with. Temperature doesn’t have to stay below 0 C to maintain glaciers, but once you do get below a certain average temperature the additional temperature doesn’t make much difference.

    Comment by Graham Young — June 4, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.