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International team of scientists to study ‘Third Pole’

India: Information about glaciers across the planet is scarce and often misunderstood, causing some experts to make claims that bear no weight in fact. Now, an international team of scientists will go on a long-term campaign to monitor 25 glaciers in Tibet and its surrounding mountains (also known as the ‘Third Pole’), Nature reported. This campaign is part of the Third Pole Environment (TPE) programme, which is an international effort to assess the effect of climate change in the region.

Starting later this year, a team led by researchers from Asia will survey the glaciers twice a year and use satellite measurements to look for changes in mass balance — the sum of the snowfall that builds up the glaciers and the melting that shrinks them.

The glaciers – to be chosen in the coming weeks – will be picked specifically to determine the key factors in the glacier’s fate; elevation, topography, geographical setting, climate and the type of debris that covers the ice.

The team will assess mass balance and set up several comprehensive observatories to monitor the weather and solar radiation and measure properties of the snow, soil and ice, according to Daqing Yang, a hydrologist at Environment Canada in Gatineau, who is involved in the study.

Earlier, there have been several attempts to study the ‘Third Pole’. One of the most debatable studies was based-on the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data. In 2010, it was concluded that the ‘Third Pole’ was losing approximately 50 gigatonnes of ice per year. In 2012, it has observed that on the whole, high-altitude Asian glaciers are losing ice only one-tenth as fast as the previous estimates and that those in the Tibetan Plateau may actually be growing on average.

Source: Nature