Dust causing rapid snow and ice melt in western Himalayas

#GS3 #Environment #ClimateChange

 

Dust blowing in from the Thar desert in northwestern India, from Saudi Arabia and the Sahara desert in north Africa is causing a rapid melting of snow in the western Himalayas, according to a new study.

 

Research

  • The research has been done by scientists from the US government’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. It has been financed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  • The researchers found that due to climate change, wind patterns had changed, which were blowing dust in the direction of the Himalayas. Due to human-induced land use changes, there were no longer enough trees in the area that could stop the dust as there used to be.
  • Pure white snow reflects all heat. However, that is not the case with ‘dirty snow’. This is called the ‘albedo effect’, which is the measure of an object to reflect sunlight.
  • Because the dust travelling to the Himalayas deposits on the snow and ice, it causes it to reflect sunlight poorly. This, in turn, causes it to melt.
  • The increase in dust in the Himalayas could have catastrophic consequences for people living in parts of India, China and southeast Asia, who depend on Himalayan glacial melt for their water needs, the study warned.
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