CU researchers wade into effect of shrinking Himalayan glaciers on Asia’s water supply

BOULDER – The U.S. government is deploying Colorado scientists to lead a $5.4 million effort to gauge the impact of shrinking Himalayan glaciers on water supplies across Asia.

The question is whether rivers that sustain more than 2 billion people are fed primarily by water from rainfall, by seasonal snowmelt or by the glaciers that are vulnerable to climate change.

A significant drop in water supply could lead to food shortages and, according to U.S. Agency for International Development officials, create new conflicts in already volatile areas.

The high-mountain glaciers, seen as water towers for Asia, have been shrinking at a rate of 0.5 percent a year – similar to glaciers in South America’s Andes and the European Alps . As Asia’s glaciers recede, Chinese and Indian governments are moving to control headwaters with at least 19 proposed dam projects, adding to eight or so existing major dams.

U.S. intelligence agencies were among those interested in enlisting University of Colorado senior research scientist Richard Armstrong and geography professor Mark Williams.

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Climate change leads Inuits to team up with CSU to predict weather and ice

Inuit hunters fighting to continue their traditional lifestyle in the melting Arctic have turned to Colorado scientists for help.

Cracks open unexpectedly in sea-ice routes the Inuit rely on to track polar bears, caribou and other animals. Each year, the ice melts earlier and freezes later, forcing a shift from dog sleds to boats that require costly fuel.

Elders’ once-reliable predictions, based in part on touching and tasting sea ice, increasingly fail.

Today the scientists, led by climate-modeling veteran Glen Liston, are installing a super-sensitive network of weather stations near an isolated community on Baffin Island in northeast Canada called Kangiqtugaapik (pop. 1,000).

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