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New Satellite Data Shows Some Glaciers in Asia Getting Larger


"due to a very specific regional climate."

It's what scientists are calling a localized oddity but new satellite data of the Karakoram Mountains in Asia has revealed the glaciers in that area have actually been getting bigger, which would be contrary to other data of glaciers worldwide showing retreat.

New Scientist (via Gizmodo) reports that the range, which is remote and the largest in Asia next to the Himalayas, grew 11 centimeters in thickness of water per year, according to data collected from 1999 to 2008 and analyzed by Julie Gardelle of the University of Grenoble in France. New Scientist points out that by "growing" and therefore taking up more water it also prevented about 0.01 millimetres of sea level rise each year during this time.

With this data being counter-intuitive compared to that from other glaciers showing retreat, Gardelle admits the exact reason for the growth is unknown, but states she believes it's "due to a very specific regional climate."

The Telegraph points out this research, published in Nature Geoscience, comes at a controversial time regarding climate change in the region, as just last month it was revealed melt in the Himalayans may have been overestimated due to monitoring methods. The method used to evaluate glacier data by Gardelle et al of the Karakoram range used 3D altitude maps. The Guardian reports one scientist not involved with the study calling this method a "ground-breaking" approach:

"On most of the glaciers in the Karakoram it is simply not possible to be there," [Prof Graham Cogley, of Trent University in Canada] said. "The roads end well short of the glaciers, and it can take days to trek to them. If you reach that point in spite of reluctant soldiers and eager terrorists, it might be physically impossible to get on to the glacier, which will be extremely crevassed and dangerous. Granting agencies do not fork out for helicopter time for this kind of activity. Yet."

Cogley is also reported as seconding Gardelle's sentiment that it is a "quirk" in the climate that the fact more snow was being delivered to the mountain, causing it to grow while other glaciers worldwide have retreated.

According to the Daily Mail, this mountain range has rocky debris that can influence the manner in which it melts. It also reports Stephan Harrison, associate professor in quaternary science at the UK's University of Exeter, as saying some of the glacial growth could be due to avalanches.

The Guardian also reports Prof. Jonathan Bamber with the University of Bristol stating this information should be consider carefully given the short timeframe the glacier system was studied. He said most studies would use a 30-year minimum to draw conclusions.

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