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Study: Extensive glacial melting on Mount Everest

Researchers have found that changes in the Earth's climate have significantly impacted the world's tallest mountain.

In a new study, scientists conclude that the glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 percent in the last 50 years. They also found that the snowline in the area has shifted up by 590 feet.

Scientists who conducted the study believe that the increased rate at which the snow and ice is melting is compounded by the fact that the overall snowfall in the area has been declining since the early 1990s.

According to the researchers, the glaciers that are smaller than one square kilometer are disappearing faster than other ice structures. Their surface area has declined 43 percent since the 1960s.

When the ice melts away, the glaciers reveal previously hidden rock and debris. The visible debris-covered sections have increased by 17 percent since the 1960s.

In a statement, the researchers said they assumed that the decline of snow and ice in the Everest region was a direct result of "human-generated greenhouse gases altering global climate." However, they clarified that they have not yet established "a firm connection between the mountains' changes and climate change."

Sudeep Thakuri, a doctoral student at the University of Milan in Italy who is leading the research, explained in a statement that his team was able to use satellite imagery and topographic maps to figure out the glacial history of the Sagarmatha National Park area.

In order to track the temperatures and precipitation rates, his team used hydro-meteorological data from the Nepal Climate Observatory and Nepal's Department of Hydrology. They found that the area has had a 1.08-degree-Fahrenheit increase in temperatures and 3.9-inch decrease in precipitation since 1992.

From this study researchers are hoping to gather information that will help minimize water rights issues as the area continues to warm.

"The Himalayan glaciers and ice caps are considered a water tower for Asia since they store and supply water downstream during the dry season," said Thakuri. "Downstream populations are dependent on the melt water for agriculture, drinking, and power production."

Mount Everest is around 29,000 feet above sea level and located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The massive peak is situated on the border between Nepal and Tibet.

The team conducting the study presented their findings Tuesday at the Meeting of the Americas in Cancun, Mexico.

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