The rapid melting of glaciers in the so-called Third Pole located in the Himalayas and Central Asian mountains threatens the long term survival of billions of people across Central and Southern Asia.
The melting is due to a 1.5 degree increase in surface temperature and will increase flows in the Mekong, Yellow, Yangtse, Ganges and Indus rivers over the next decade after which it will begin to slow again. The area is known as the Third Pole because it contains as much frozen water as the North and South pole.
Glaciers on the Western side of the mountains appear to be unaffected to due increased precipitation being blown East from Europe.
Local herdsmen in Western China are already being re-located as climate refugees due to the changes in the landsape caused by the increased volume of water, warmer weather and lack of snowfall.
Crisis at the Third Pole
At the top of the world a climate disaster is unfolding that will impact the lives of more than 1 billion people. The real worry is the melt will set off a chain of climate disasters like the recent epic floods in Pakistan and China, or unprecedented heatwaves in India, or increasing desertification across the region. And the deeper concern is that while scientists know the changes in the Third Pole will affect global weather patterns such as monsoons and the El Nino, they don’t know by how much. And in a region where tension between countries over shared water resources is becoming increasingly common, the environmental threat is likely to spark a political one.