DGES glaciologists join colleagues to showcase Vanishing Glaciers of Everest at Royal Society Exhibition

ABERYSTWYTH University glaciologists from the Department of Geography and Earth Science joined colleagues from the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds, Northumbria and Hertfordshire to showcase their research at the Royal Society’s 2015 Summer Science Exhibition in London, 30 June – 5 July.

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Nuptse with its avalanche-prone hanging glaciers that feed the Khumbu Glacier as it flows off Mount Everest.

The team has built an exhibit that focuses on how the glaciers around the world’s highest mountain (Mt. Everest, 8848m), are rapidly shrinking.

Through the usage of photographs and video footage from expeditions to the Khumbu, Imja, Lhotse and Ngozumpa Glaciers in Nepal, combined with hands-on experiments using blocks of ice and 3-D models, the team explained how glaciers in the Himalaya are responding to climate change and why this is important for humanity.

The 16-strong team includes a mix of academic staff, postgraduates and mountaineers, all of whom share an interest in the state and fate of glaciers in the Himalaya. Leading the team was Dr Ann Rowan of Sheffield University, formerly a post-doctoral research fellow funded by C3W at Aberystwyth.

She was joined by Professor Neil Glasser, Professor Michael Hambrey, Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn and Morgan Gibson from AU’s Centre for Glaciology. Other team members with a Centre for Glaciology connection are: Dr Duncan Quincey (former PhD student and Lecturer), Owen King (former Master’s student), both now at the University of Leeds, and Dr Matt Westoby (former PhD student) from Northumbria University.

Also with the team was David Breashears from Glacierworks, a renowned American mountaineer and filmmaker who has attained the summit of Everest four times, and Mollie Hughes, one of the youngest British climbers to reach the top of the world.

Professor Hambrey commented:

“Our fieldwork on the Khumbu Glacier 12 years ago, followed up by further fieldwork by our postgraduates, and combined with analysis of satellite imagery, has clearly demonstrated that this glacier and its neighbours are wasting away rapidly. This is taking place in a way that allows potentially dangerous glacial lakes to form. Also, the recent earthquakes have highlighted how vulnerable the people of Nepal are to landslides. Himalayan glaciers provide water to 1.3 billion people in Asia, so are a vital, but diminishing resource. We want to find out why these glaciers are changing so rapidly in response to climatic warming, and obtain better data so we can predict changes more accurately.”

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Mount Everest (left) and Nuptse tower above Khumbu Glacier, where Aberystwyth glaciologists have been working.

The team has produced a short video, featuring Neil Glasser, Tris Irvine-Fynn and Morgan Gibson on YouTube, to explain the purpose of the research – published by the Royal Society.

Also, a series of around 100 photographs and explanations of glaciers around Mt Everest have been placed on the educational website ‘Glaciers Online‘.

Sponsorship of the exhibit was provided by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Climate Change Consortium of Wales, the Quaternary Research Association and the five Universities involved.

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is a week-long science festival which features 22 exhibits from the forefront of British innovation.