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Climate Change Scientists To Drill World’s Highest Glacier In The Himalayas

First Posted: Apr 12, 2017 06:20 AM EDT

A team of U.K.-based climate change researchers are heading to the Himalayas to become the first scientists to successfully drill the highest glacier in the world. The research team from the Aberystwyth University in Wales will be working at an altitude over 5,000 meters on the Khumbu glacier in Nepal.

According to BBC News, the scientists will spend up to six weeks on location and will use a drill specially adapted from a car wash to cut nearly 200 meters into the glacier. The aim of drilling into the highest glacier is to find out how climate change impacts Khumbu. The team will study Khumbu’s internal structure and measure its temperature. Factors like how quickly the glacier flows and how water drains from it will also be studied, as per a Financial Express report.

Khumbu, which is often used by climbers during their journey to the Everest base-camp, is a 17-kilometer-long glacier located in north eastern Nepal. The glacier flows from as high as 7,600 meters down to 4,900 meters.

"Working in the field is challenging at best, but this mission presents some particular challenges," project leader Professor Bryn Hubbard was quoted as saying, according to the BBC News report. "We do not know how well our equipment will perform at altitude, let alone how we will be able to contend with the thin air."

Professor Hubbard also added that understanding what actually happens in the interiors of glaciers is crucial to know more about their flow. Consequently, better predictions can be made by scientists about the breaching of dams, which form on these glaciers. A vast volume of water is released in the valleys below when dams on glaciers are breached. The probability of such a calamity is a real risk in the Himalayas as it can endanger the lives of thousands of people.

Professor Duncan Quincey from the U.K.’s Leeds University, who will also be a part of the research team, feels that all data available about glaciers until now are just scratches on the surface. Therefore, the upcoming mission is important to understand how glaciers in the region will respond to climate change.

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