Then & Now Photos Show Melting of Himalayan Glaciers

melting Himalayan glaciers photos

Stunning then & now photos of the Himalayan Glaciers show the clear results of climate change in the “Third Pole.”

Mountaineer, photographer, and filmmaker, David Breashears, has climbed the Himalayan Mountains 5 times in the last 3 years. Working on a documentary for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Breashears climbed the mountains and also brought with him a black-and-white photograph taken by the English mountaineer George L. Mallory in 1921.

Breashears took a photo of the exact same place Mallory had taken his photo of 87 years before. The results are clear, a ton of ice and snow is missing now.

Breashears went on from there to help found the Glacier Research Imaging Project, retracing “the steps of some of the world’s greatest mountain photographers as they took pictures — many of them not previously published or displayed — over the past 110 years across the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau” and taking photos from exactly those spots.

The result of this project is an exhibition — “Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya” — on display at the Asia Society Museum in New York until August 15.

“These then-and-now pictures have a powerful effect on the viewer, one that I hope will bring home the reality — and serious consequences — of global warming. Gazing at Italian photographer Vittorio Sella’s 1899 picture of the Jannu Glacier in Nepal — a huge ice tongue filling a valley — and then comparing it to my 2009 photo, in which the glacier has disappeared, creates a profound sense of unease,” Breashears writes.

“And we should be uneasy. The loss of these frozen reservoirs of water will have a huge impact, as the glaciers provide seasonal flows to nearly every major river system in Asia. From the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra in South Asia, to the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers in China, hundreds of millions of people are partially dependent on this vast arc of high-altitude glaciers for water. As the glaciers recede and release stored water, flows will temporarily increase. But once these ice reservoirs are spent, the water supply for a sprawling, overpopulated continent will be threatened, and the impacts on water resources and food security could be dire.”

To watch a video interview of Breashears, view a photo gallery of this project, or read Breashears full piece on the topic, visit “Tracking the Himalaya’s Melting Glaciers” on Yale360.

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Image Credit: screenshot of Yale360 article

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