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Last updated at 12:54 BST, Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Thickening glaciers


17 April 2012

A team of scientists has shown that the glaciers in one of Asia's major mountain ranges are defying the general tendency towards shrinkage, and have in fact expanded slightly over the last few years. The range in question is the Karakoram, which straddles Pakistan, India and China on the north-western end of the Himalayas.


Paddy Clark

Mountains of the Karakoram range

Scientists say that Karakoram's glaciers have expanded by a small amount.


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Glacial decline and the gradual loss of polar ice caps has been a worrying trend over recent decades, but scientists have been aware of an apparently curious anomaly with the Karakoram, which contains some of the world's biggest mountains including the second highest, K2. It has about 20,000 square kilometres of glaciers, accounting for three percent of the total area of ice outside the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.

Now a team of French scientists has carried out a detailed survey over a large area of the range using sophisticated remote-sensing measurements. Writing in the scientific journal, Nature, they say they found that in the first years of this century the Karakoram's glaciers had actually expanded by a small amount, while in the neighbouring Himalayas they'd been shrinking.

It's unclear why this is happening, but it seems that by a quirk in the weather pattern that's not fully understood, less heat is being delivered to the Karakoram and the mountains are receiving heavier falls of snow.


Click to hear the vocabulary


glacial decline

the slow melting of ice rivers


little by little


general pattern


difference to the norm

ice sheets

large areas of thick ice






become larger


getting smaller


unusual characteristic

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