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Scientist warns of Everest dangers from pollution, melting

Mount Everest (height 8848 metres) is seen in the Everest region, some 140 km northeast of Kathmandu, on May 27, 2019. (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP)

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Mount Everest and its surrounding peaks are increasingly polluted and warmer, and nearby glaciers are melting at an alarming rate that is likely to make it more dangerous for future climbers, a U.S. scientist who spent weeks in the Everest region said Tuesday.

Professor John All of Western Washington University said after returning from the mountains that he and his team of fellow scientists found there was lot of pollution buried deep in the snow, and that the snow was surprisingly dark when they processed and filtered it.

“What that means is there are little pieces of pollution that the snow is forming around, so the snow is actually trapping the pollution and pulling it down,” All said in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.

All and his team spent weeks testing snow on Everest and its surrounding peaks, as well as plants on the foothills.

A Nepali Army helicopter flies over waste collected from Mount Everest at Namche Bazar in Solukhumbu district on May 27, 2019, before it is transported to Kathmandu to be recycled. – Some ten tonnes of garbage have been picked from Mount Everest and four bodies retrieved at the end of this year’s climbing season, Nepalese authorities said on May 27. (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP)

“The warming temperature is melting the glaciers and the snow around Mount Everest very quickly, so what happens is even when there is a storm it melts in a couple of hours,” he said. “The glaciers are retreating dramatically because of global warming.”

He said because the glaciers are getting thinner and smaller, it is making it more dangerous for climbers.

The team had been planning to climb both Everest and sister peak Lhotse, but crowding on Everest forced them to change their plans. They climbed up to the last camp at 8,000 meters (26,240 feet), the last point the two mountains share, and only reached the top of Lhotse.

Mount Everest (height 8848 metres) is seen in the Everest region, some 140 km northeast of Kathmandu, on May 27, 2019. – Ten people have died in little more than two weeks after poor weather cut the climbing window, leaving mountaineers waiting in long queues to the summit, risking exhaustion and running out of oxygen. (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP)

Hundreds of climbers had lined up on May 22 and 23 to attempt to reach Everest’s summit, creating a traffic jam that is being blamed for the deaths of several climbers.

All said it was too risky for his team to collect samples with that many climbers moving very slowly.

The scientists said the samples and data would be processed once they return to United States, and they would then issue a report on their findings. They had done similar research in the area in 2009.

“Overall, the past 10 years have seen a lot changes in the mountains, and they all have been for the negative environmentally in terms of long term survivability of the glaciers,” All said.

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