Global warming evidence goes beyond temperatures. The lake above is not the result of an instrument malfunction. A glacier is melting and more than a billion people are depending on the water which may stop flowing.
When Fritz Müller and Erwin Schneider battled ice storms, altitude sickness and snow blindness in the 1950s to map, measure and photograph the Imja glacier in the Himalayas, they could never have foreseen that the gigantic tongue of millennia-old glacial ice would be reduced to a lake within 50 years.
But half a century later, American mountain geographer Alton Byers returned to the precise locations of the original pictures and replicated 40 panoramas taken by explorers Müller and Schneider. Placed together, the juxtaposed images are not only visually stunning but also of significant scientific value.
The photos have now been united for the first time in an exhibition organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod) and are printed here for the first time in Britain.
The Himalaya – Changing Landscapes exhibition opened in Bonn this week as delegates gathered ifor the next round of UN talks aimed at delivering a global deal on tackling global warming. The series of pictures tell a story not only about the dramatic reductions in glacial ice in the Himalayas, but also the effects of climate change on the people who live there.
… Imja is one of 27 glacial lakes in Nepal classified as potentially dangerous. If the moraines which dam the lake are breached, thousands of lives in the most densely populated Sherpa valley in Nepal are at risk from flooding and landslides.
Himalayan glaciers also feed into major Asian river systems including the Ganges, Indus, Mekong and Yangtze. If glacial meltwaters turn to a trickle, widespread droughts will threaten the 1.3 billion people that depend on water flowing in those rivers .
Andreas Schild, the director general of Icimod, said the photographs reveal just “the tip of the iceberg”.