Melting mountains a water 'time bomb'
Reuters, April. 15, 2008
"This is just a time bomb," hydrologist Wouter Buytaert said at a meeting of geoscientists in
Those areas most at risk from a lack of water for drinking and agriculture include parts of the Middle East, southern Africa, the
Rising global temperatures mean the melt water is occurring earlier and faster in the year and the mountains may no longer be able to provide a vital stop gap.
"In some areas where the glaciers are small they could be gone in 30 or 50 years time and a very reliable source of water, especially for the summer months, may be gone," Buytaert said.
Daniel Viviroli, from the
He says the earth's subtropic zones, which are home to 70 percent of the world's population, are the most vulnerable.
And with the global population expected to expand rapidly, there may not always be enough water to drink, let alone to water crops, which use about 70 percent of melt-water.
"Glaciers are getting smaller and smaller," he said, adding that this was leading to more frequent flooding.
In some valleys snow has completely disappeared during months when it usually blankets the mountains and many basins have drained, Molnia said.
"And what I am talking about here is adaptable to almost every one of the Himalayan countries that's dependent on glacier-melted water," he said.
It has also been difficult to collect data in the region, with scientists preferring to rely on satellite imagery rather risk fieldwork in the Taliban-occupied mountains.
Buytaert pointed out that because only a handful of scientists study the hydrology of mountains, what they don't know about them could be just as concerning as what they do.
"Mountains are seen as having water all the time and everywhere so people think they can take it all the time," she said.
"But mountains are black boxes in the scientific sense, there is so much data missing for our models. We don't quite know what is going on."
Copyright 2008 Reuters