Our glaciers are being affected the most by increasing human activities. Many believe that this effect started taking place only a few decades ago, but in a new study, researchers have claimed that it was greatly contaminated by people through their activities decades before humans reached the Himalayas peaks. The study, published in a journal called PNAS, shows that as a result of the Industrial Revolution in Europe at the end of the 18th century, its byproducts (poisonous substances present in smoke) of coal-burning had reached the Dasuopu Glacier. This glacier is located 10, 300 kilometres from London. The Industrial Revolution is believed to have originated from London itself. Paulo Gabriel of the Ohio State University in the US said, “The Industrial Revolution was a revolution in the use of energy and therefore the combustion of coal was also a major cause of emissions that reached the Himalayas through the winds.”
The team of researchers was part of a larger international team. The team went on a trip to Dasuopu in 1997. During this time, the researchers dug up the ice core of this glacier at an altitude of about 7200 meters above sea level and collected important data of the climate here. Dasuopu is one of the world’s 14 highest mountains in Shishapangma, China. All these high mountains are situated in the Himalayas. For this study, researchers analyzed samples of 23 metals collected from the core of Dasuopu in 1997.
Timeline snowflakes work: The researchers said that the ice pieces work as a timeline and are converted into layers after a certain time. The carving of glaciers reveals that the bottom of which ice pieces are collected for analysis, they can tell about the same old-time climate.
Damage due to forest fire: Gabriel said that in the 18th century, there was also a population explosion and the main source of income of people was farming, due to which large number of trees were harvested and people also set fire to the forests to build the fields. Due to which the level of carbon in the atmosphere increased significantly and due to the winds, it reached the carbon glaciers, due to which the glaciers were greatly affected. Now that the industries have increased, their condition has worsened.
Presence of toxic metals: During the study, researchers found that in the UK around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution i.e. around 1780, many toxic metals, including cadmium, chromium, nickel and zinc, were present in large quantities in ice. Most of these metals are coal byproducts, which formed an important part of the industry in the late 18th century and into the 19th and 20th centuries.
Researchers said that this means that these metals flowed from the west to the east through the air, causing the Himalayan glaciers to be the most affected. Regarding increasing zinc content in the Himalayan glaciers, researchers estimate that a large amount of zinc harvested in the atmosphere would have increased due to the large amount of tree felling and forest fires in the late 18th century.