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Spy Satellite Images Uncover Staggering Mount Everest Ice Loss

Due to climate change, glaciers near Mount Everest have lost ice mass. New analysis shows that the loss is even greater than expected.
Due to climate change, glaciers near Mount Everest have lost ice mass. New analysis shows that the loss is even greater than expected.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

乐动体育开户SAN FRANCISCO — The glaciers surrounding Mount Everest have lost far more ice than once thought, declassified spy satellite photos have revealed.

Using these decades-old images — along with recently-collected data — researchers generated digital surface-elevation models of the glaciers, creating a highly detailed record of melt. From 1962 to 2018, the glaciers along Mount Everest's flanks had shrunk significantly from the top down, according to research presented on Dec. 13, 2019, here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Decades-old images

乐动体育开户. This joint effort, helmed by the CIA, the U.S. Air Force and private industry experts, collected photographs of locations across Eastern Europe and Asia.

Related: Photographic Proof of Climate Change: Time-Lapse Images of Retreating Glaciers

乐动体育开户By the time these images were declassified, in 1995, the mission had amassed more than 800,000 photos. These included numerous views of the Himalayas, offering scientists an unprecedented glimpse of how the region's glaciers had changed over time, said Tobias Bolch, a lecturer for remote sensing with the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom. 

乐动体育开户Bolch and his colleagues combined analysis of these satellite photos with aerial images and modern satellite views, to visualize glacier ice mass loss since the 1960s. 

As Earth warms, many glaciers' outermost boundaries visibly retreat and expose the rock underneath, so it's easy to spot where ice has been lost. For the new investigation, the scientists sought a missing piece of the puzzle: how loss of ice might affect a glacier's height, Bolch told Live Science. They found the first signs of significantly reduced ice dating back to the 1960s.

"When we now look at the entire area, we see a clear increase in mass loss while it was in the period of 1962 to 1969, around 20 centimeters [8 inches] per year," he said.

乐动体育开户Overall, the researchers found that Rongbuk and Khumbu glaciers, where Everest base camps are located, had thinned by more than 260 feet (80 meters) over 60 years, while Imja glacier lost more than 300 feet (100 m) of ice during the same timespan. 

The researchers also found that ice loss sped up in recent decades, with the acceleration beginning in the 1980s, Bolch said.

This new data about vanished ice suggests that the region's supply of stored fresh water is draining away quicker than computer models have predicted. Runaway glacial ice loss could also destabilize popular mountaineering trails near Everest, heightening the risks for hikers and climbers, Bolch said.

Originally published on Live Science.

  • Synopsis
    I'm curious to understand why there is just one answer for all changes on the planet. Doesn't science suggest that there could be other explanations for these changes? How about the poles changing? Does the amount of mass appropriated in one location, like China, cause fluctuations in pole changes? I would like to read that all other possibilities have been ruled out.
    Reply
  • Jim S
    Ya coming out of an ice age 20,000 years ago does tend to melt glaciers.
    Reply
  • YoungScience
    I do understand where you are coming from but the evidence of global warming affecting the glaciers can not be ignored. When you have evidence of greenhouse gases like CO2 and Methane trapping heat into the atmosphere and raising the temperature of the Earth, you can't ignore that and think that it is from something else. Because it isn't
    Reply
  • JCR
    Our little planet Is millions of years old. We dont really know how its cycles work, we dont know if its human causes or a natural cycle that is accelerating naturally. It's pure arrogance to say our little bit of research in the last 100 yrs tells us anything, our existence and scientific knowledge here is a split second in time compared to the lifespan of Earth.
    For these changes in our environment to be used for political purposes and virtue signaling, shaming and making money is shameful.
    The fact the noone is speaking of the unforeseen and seemingly self healing of the "ozone hole" over the poles shows me that it's not fitting certain scientific points of view and being ignored.
    Further evidence i think that the recent uproar over "climate change" is more about advancing certain groups agendas and not really researching the true causes of these changes.
    Reply
  • Conrad
    Synopsis said:
    I'm curious to understand why there is just one answer for all changes on the planet. Doesn't science suggest that there could be other explanations for these changes? How about the poles changing? Does the amount of mass appropriated in one location, like China, cause fluctuations in pole changes? I would like to read that all other possibilities have been ruled out.
    Aluminum particles ionized by 5g radiowaves frkm the towers all active now in all effects around the world. Aluminum in the sky dumped by UN and governments to CAUSE climate change to CREATE a problem to FIX AND BECOME THE GALVANIZING FORCE. ... not that that makes any more sense then "carbon" becoming the blamed chemical when carbon PROLIFERATES green vegetation growth was any sort of CLUE to as what the lies perpetrated by a Council of rich tightwad corporate sellout demonic skeezers whose mandate was 95 % of earths human population reduced to IN TURN reduce 95% of the frigging pollution as a result. Wow. Ridiculous that people dont see through this kinda garbage. Instead of LOOKING AT THEIR DOCTRINES they assume what sustainable development is actually .... which is in fact a lie hiding agenda 21 and the systematic controlling of a population by means of climate change "movements"
    Its not a conspiracy when their BIG ASS DOCTRINE HANDBOOK in which clearly that ted turner states: reduction of 95% of all human life is ideal for the completion of agenda 21." And another member of council adds that its important to make climate change the "new religion" as a result to create the belief that UN is the only means to save a world.... terrible that people like that even BREATHE
    Reply
  • Oneye
    @JCR and Republican indoctrinates
    the only one doing what you say everyone else is doing is your group of Republicans.
    science isn't everything but it's also not nothing. you have no idea how science works. your politics is even worse.
    the ozone hole may have been healed by the banning of freon. i don't know, but it may not have self-healed.
    your age of the earth argument has no merit. nor does the republican "there's always change". change has direction and speed, these can quantified, within error bars. they can be set in historical context, and patterns sometimes emerge. global warming has unprecedented speed. it's not the earth that's in danger. it's human life on earth. shouldn't concern you in the least, since you're obviously not human. oh, your money won't buy you a reprieve from mother nature when she extincts humans. and hiring lawyers won't work.
    science brings us hard data, and numbers, in the form of statistics, and we hope, gives us prior warning. politics is the art of doing something about it. the republican attitude of doing nothing is the shameful attitude, the one that is money and agenda driven.
    so when you get on your soap box and point fingers and say shame, please point your finger at your own eye.
    Reply
  • paz9
    Synopsis said:
    I'm curious to understand why there is just one answer for all changes on the planet. Doesn't science suggest that there could be other explanations for these changes? How about the poles changing? Does the amount of mass appropriated in one location, like China, cause fluctuations in pole changes? I would like to read that all other possibilities have been ruled out.
    I'm curious as to what the "one answer" is that you are referring to. Wow, you science deniers are quite sensitive these days! The article mentioned no causes. It merely described what is happening and what the consequences could be, eg, less fresh water.
    I also find it ironic that there are so many of you on an actual science website.
    Reply
  • paz9
    JCR said:
    Our little planet Is millions of years old. We dont really know how its cycles work, we dont know if its human causes or a natural cycle that is accelerating naturally. It's pure arrogance to say our little bit of research in the last 100 yrs tells us anything, our existence and scientific knowledge here is a split second in time compared to the lifespan of Earth.
    For these changes in our environment to be used for political purposes and virtue signaling, shaming and making money is shameful.
    The fact the noone is speaking of the unforeseen and seemingly self healing of the "ozone hole" over the poles shows me that it's not fitting certain scientific points of view and being ignored.
    Further evidence i think that the recent uproar over "climate change" is more about advancing certain groups agendas and not really researching the true causes of these changes.
    Actually, we know quite a bit about cycles and how we are influencing same. How are you on a science website touting ignorance? Self-healing ozone hole? Honestly? Ever heard of the Montreal Protocol? We did something about ozone and we are making progress against acid rain. We need the same and more to fight CO2 pollution, not kicking and screaming.
    You need to spend more time on the Internet, or maybe not!
    Reply
  • paz9
    This article does not state a cause! my goodness, deniers spring from every corner at the mere mention of melting ice. My guess is that dark particulates have as much to do with the melting as CO2 and climate change, maybe more. Sorry, I know that's not much of a consolation. It is still pollution.
    Reply
  • samagon
    Synopsis said:
    I'm curious to understand why there is just one answer for all changes on the planet. Doesn't science suggest that there could be other explanations for these changes? How about the poles changing? Does the amount of mass appropriated in one location, like China, cause fluctuations in pole changes? I would like to read that all other possibilities have been ruled out.

    I'm curious to understand why they have to publish every failure for someone to accept that what they publish and peer review isn't done after going through all the possible causes? and why do they have to rule out ALL other possibilities, when this one makes the most sense?
    Reply