ALBEDO; Arctic to the Himalayas, the phenomenon that is accelerating glacier melting

2 Degrees Centigrade

Industrial dust and soil, blown thousands of miles, settle on ice sheets and add to rising sea level threat

Dark deposits on icefields in Greenland, which absorb more sunlight and lead to faster glacial melting.

When American geologist Ulyana Horodysky set up a mini weather station at 5,800m on Mount Himlung, on the Nepal-Tibet border, she looked east towards Everest and was shocked. The world’s highest glacier, Khumbu, was turning visibly darker as particles of fine dust, blown by fierce winds, settled on the bright, fresh snow. “One-week-old snow was turning black and brown before my eyes,” she said.

The problem was even worse on the nearby Ngozumpa glacier, which snakes down from Cho Oyu – the world’s sixth highest mountain. There, Horodyskyj found that so much dust had been blown on to the surface that the ability of the ice to reflect sunlight, a process known as albedo, dropped…

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