Research stations set up in the Himalayas and Andes under collaboration with European research institutes will feed in crucial inputs on glacier melt due to climate change.
They are part of the World Meteorological Organization global atmospheric watch network (GAW) programme, which operates about 300 stations in 80 countries to monitor changes in the atmosphere.
An upcoming research station, 5,320 meters high at Chacaltaya in the Bolivian Andes, will be the first to provide inputs from the soutehrn hemisphere, Angela Marioni, from Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate ( ISAC) at the Italian National Research Council (CNR), told ESOF 2010. The 18,000-year-old Chacaltaya glacier is shrinking at an alarming pace.
The Bolivian station is expected to provide inputs on changes in the atmospheric composition in “less than two years”.
In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme helped set up a Nepal Climate Observatory, on an icy pyramid 5079 metres high in the Khumbhu valley in the Himalayas, to track pollution across Asia that was causing a brown haze called the atmospheric brown cloud.
The Nepal observatory measures changes in green house gases, ozone-destroying chemicals as well as tiny polluting particles in the air over the Himalayas and Karakorum mountain ranges in Asia. It will also study weather patterns, glaciers and rock changes in the Himalayas and Karakorum mountain ranges in Asia.
The two will add to data from Alps stations, such as the Jungfraujoch station and the Plateau Rosa, that measure solar radiation, levels of ozone-destroying chemicals as well as concentrations of greenhouse gases.
“A glacier is a perfect instrument that integrates all the signals from the atmosphere from the climate point of view and meteorological point of view,” says Claudio Smiraglia, professor of geography at the University of Milan.
His studies show the total surface area of Alps glaciers has reduced from 4,474 square kilometres in 1850 to 2,271 in 2000; while the number of glacier lakes has increased.
“We will have a constant struggle between retreating ice, between new water formations and new vegetation trying to come up,” warns Smiraglia.
T V Padma, South Asia Regional Coordinator, SciDev.Net