According to a University of Maine research team, Mount Everest’s highest glacier melts at an alarming rate. According to the team’s findings, ice that had been accumulated over decades was now melting each year, posing a danger for climbers as well as those who depend on it for water and irrigation.

Although climate change is a common topic of research, very little has been done to study the melting of mountain glaciers at the top of the globe. According to a press release, the Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition of National Geographic and Rolex began the “most comprehensive scientific investigation” in the area in early 2019. The scientists also established two of the most powerful automatic weather stations in the world as part of the expedition.

The researchers examined the South Col Glacier’s ice core and data from satellite imagery and weather stations to determine that climate change had had a significant impact on the landscape of the world’s highest mountain. The researchers discovered that the South Col Glacier had lost its snowpack, a thick layer of snow covering the hard ice of glacier. This accelerated the melting process.

Scientists discovered that South Col Glacier lost 180 feet in thickness over the past 25 years. This means it melted 80 times faster than it took to form its top layer. Warming air temperatures, low humidity and strong winds were blamed by the team.

It answers one of the major questions raised by the 2019 NGS/Rolex Mount Everest Expedition: whether climate change has had an impact on the world’s highest glaciers. Paul Mayewski (expedition leader, director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute), stated that the answer was a resounding “yes” and has changed significantly since the late 90s.

Researchers also warned that loss of glacier ice could result in significantly more exposed bedrock. This could make Mount Everest climbing expeditions even more dangerous over the next decades.

Mariusz Potocki (a glaciochemist) said that climate predictions for the Himalayan suggest continued warming, continued glacier mass losses, and even the Everest’s top is impacted.” He also added, “Climate predictions to the Himalayan suggest continued warming,” he stated.