Posted in | News

The World Has A Third Pole and It Is Melting Fast

Image credit: Niccolo Bertoldi /

The lesser known Third Pole exists in Asia, connecting eight countries and encompassing 10 of the largest rivers in the world, the area of the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau is home to ice fields so vast they provide the largest water reserve after the Arctic and Antarctic (about 15% of all snow and ice globally).

The Brahmaputra, Indus, Ganges, Mekong and Yellow rivers find their homes in the Third Pole, contributing to the major resource of not only drinking water, but irrigation for farming and energy in the form of hydropower to 20% of the world’s population.

However, the world’s Third Pole is under threat. A recent report has predicted that it will take only 80 years for two-thirds of the glaciers in this area to disappear entirely. This would be disastrous not only for the inhabitants of the region, but also for the rest of the world who depend on exports of food and clothing that rely on the Third Pole's water source as part of their production process.

The famous Khawa Karpo mountain, the highest peak of the Meili mountain range, is encompassed by the Third Pole region. Shrouded in legend, Khawa Karpo is believed to be the home of the holiest protective warrior god. Since the ice at the foot of Khawa Karpo has faded in recent years, the local Tibetan villagers have attributed the tragic loss to the behavior of mankind, believing dishonors such as rejecting prayer, greed and pollution to be the root of the shrinking glaciers.

The spiritual importance of the mountain range has made it difficult for scientists to thoroughly study the area, putting up a barrier to gaining full data that would help understand the extent and rate of the loss. In some key areas, the locals forbid scientists to study the glaciers, and in addition, the Indian government has been known to keep their data secret.

Fortunately, researchers are finding ways to overcome this. Real-time data on ice shrinkage is being provided by satellite images, including images collected from declassified spy-satellites from the cold war. Evidence from these images has informed scientists of the catastrophic loss the glaciers have already suffered, approximately a quarter of the ice has diminished since the 1970s. In addition to this, it has been uncovered that the rate of ice loss is currently double the rate of loss experienced between 1975 and 2000, equivalent to half a vertical meter of ice per year.

The Third Pole region has suffered a lack of focus in previous environmental reports. A 2007 report predicted that the entirety of the Himalayan glaciers would have disappeared by 2035. The prediction was uncovered to have no statistical backing and was based on a mere anecdote, leading to subsequent reports shying away from the issue.

Scientists are attributing the dramatic loss of ice to several factors. The temperature of the region is elevating at a rate three times faster than the global average. It is predicted that if emissions are not reduced, then the temperature will increase a further 5oC in this region.

The climate crisis you haven’t heard of.

Philippus Wester, Chief scientist, The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)

In addition to CO2 emissions, black carbon has also been identified as a factor adding to the rate of ice loss. Black carbon is responsible for maintaining extra energy at the earth’s surface, adding to warming. The Third Pole’s Mingyong glacier is covered in black carbon, likely from air pollution generated in the Indo-Gangetic Plains.

The impact of all this warming and melting of glacial ice is leading to a shortage in water in the Third Pole region. Springs are dying out because glacial meltwater has reduced. Flooding has also become more prevalent, pollution has increased, and growth in the agriculture sector will further add to these problems.

To overcome these issues, climate change needs to be a main focus. However, local communities are also tackling this problem by constructing artificial glaciers through diverting melting ice to runoff towards shaded locations where it can refreeze.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Moore, Sarah. (2019, October 17). The World Has A Third Pole and It Is Melting Fast. AZoCleantech. Retrieved on February 25, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Moore, Sarah. "The World Has A Third Pole and It Is Melting Fast". AZoCleantech. 25 February 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Moore, Sarah. "The World Has A Third Pole and It Is Melting Fast". AZoCleantech. (accessed February 25, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Moore, Sarah. 2019. The World Has A Third Pole and It Is Melting Fast. AZoCleantech, viewed 25 February 2024,

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type
Azthena logo powered by Azthena AI

Your AI Assistant finding answers from trusted AZoM content

Azthena logo with the word Azthena

Your AI Powered Scientific Assistant

Hi, I'm Azthena, you can trust me to find commercial scientific answers from

A few things you need to know before we start. Please read and accept to continue.

  • Use of “Azthena” is subject to the terms and conditions of use as set out by OpenAI.
  • Content provided on any AZoNetwork sites are subject to the site Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • Large Language Models can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.

Great. Ask your question.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.