DATE: July 26, 2016
AUTHOR: Matthew Carney, photography by Wayne McAllister
SNIP: Deep in the Himalayas sits a remote research station that is tracking an alarming trend in climate change, with implications that could disrupt the lives of more than 1 billion people and pitch the most populated region of the world into chaos.
The station lies in the heart of a region called the Third Pole, an area that contains the largest area of frozen water outside of the North Pole and South Pole.
Despite its relative anonymity, the Third Pole is vitally important; it is the source of Asia’s 10 largest rivers including the Yellow, the Yangzi, the Mekong, the Irrawaddy and the Ganges — and their fertile deltas.
Flows from the glaciers that give the pole its name support roughly 1.3 billion people in China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — and the glaciers are melting fast.
Because of its size, altitude and the amount of water it holds, the Third Pole is a major engine of global weather.
Compared to the North and South poles it is understudied, so what Professor Qin and his team are discovering is hugely significant for the fate of the world.
Professor Qin has been in charge of the Tiger Valley station since 2005. He says the team’s research shows the glacier melt is happening much faster than anticipated.
In Tiger Valley the melt is fast, furious and constant: water just keeps pouring out of the 10-kilometre glacier.
The work can be dangerous for Professor Qin and his team. As the melt hollows out the glacier from the inside, collapses are almost a daily occurrence.
Professor Qin has found the rate of melting has almost doubled in the past decade.