Department of Geography faculty member Dr. Summer Rupper is a co-author on a new study in Science Advances showing that melting of Himalayan glaciers has accelerated dramatically since the start of the 21st century. The analysis, spanning 40 years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, indicates that glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot and half of ice each year since 2000—double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000. The study is the latest and perhaps most convincing indication that climate change is eating the Himalayas’ glaciers, potentially threatening water supplies for hundreds of millions of people downstream across much of Asia.

“The Himalayas have been nicknamed the water towers of Asia, in part because of the immense amount of water stored as snow and glacier ice. Until now, we didn’t know how much glacier ice, or water storage, has been lost over this period of significant and accelerating warming” said coauthor Summer Rupper, associate professor of geography at the University of Utah. “The method we used to process the spy-satellite images in this study show not just that Himalayan glaciers are getting smaller, but also the actual volume of water stored as glacial ice that has been lost.”

For more of research team's insights, see the University of Utah media release.