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The north face of Mount Everest seen from the path to the base camp in Tibet Autonomous Region, China. Credit: Luca Galuzzi/Wikipedia.
A team of researchers from across Europe has found that rising temperatures due to global warming have been causing more avalanches in the Western Himalayas than in the past. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group outlines their study and findings and suggest that their results indicate that new risk management policies need to be put in place.
Mountains - Avalanches - Way - Life—as - Snow
In the mountains, snow avalanches are a way of life—as snow accumulates, quite often, a tipping point is reached, causing large volumes of snow to come cascading down, covering everything in its path. In this new effort, the researchers wondered what impact global warming might exert on the number of avalanches that occur each year in the Western Himalayas. To find out, they studied tree ring data over the past 150 years and compared it with snowfall data—the science involved is called dendrogeomorphology, and offers a means for tracking avalanches over long periods of time.
In looking at their data, the team was able to see that the number of avalanches occurring each year in the area has been increasing since the 1970s. Prior to that time, they found that snow avalanches were relatively rare—during the '40s and early '50s, for example, there were none. But after 1970, the rate increased to approximately 0.87 per year. A big increase over the 0.24 rate for the entire period of study. They also noticed that impacted areas tended to be larger after 1970.
Risk - Avalanches - Researchers - Temperatures - Increase
The risk of a snow avalanches goes up, the researchers note, as temperatures rise causing an increase in liquid water in the snowpack which in turn increases the shear deformation rate, causing stress, which is released...
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