Art, Greenspace August 6, 2012 By Jordan Sayle

Yang Junpo, Pingdingshan, Henan, China, 1996

Yang Junpo, Pingdingshan, Henan, China, 1996

The second half of “COAL+ICE” is devoted to the possible ramifications of what we see in the first portion. Specifically, we are transported westward to the Himalayan range, where melting ice tied to climate change poses threats to water supply on a mass scale. The fate of one-sixth of the world’s population living in South Asia depends on the approximately 15,000 Himalayan glaciers. That’s because it’s these glaciers that feed the rivers flowing into countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, so it’s worth observing the status of those ice formations.

On display in Aspen, David Breashears’s prints show how drastically mountain glaciers have retreated in some cases. His organization GlacierWorks seeks to document glaciers across the Himalayas through comparative photography, and that was the mission when he trekked across rocky and often icy terrain to reach the Kangshung Face of Mount Everest. In the same spot where the famed mountaineer George Mallory photographed the Rongbuk Glacier nearly a century ago, Breashears was able to see just how significantly melting has altered the landscape in the ensuing years. Three hundred thirty vertical feet of the glacier has been lost since Mallory’s photo was taken.

How and to what extent that sort of shrinking is currently taking place is a matter of intense investigation. Earlier this year, a team of French scientists surprised many when, led by Julie Gardelle from the University of Grenoble, they released a study of the Karakoram mountains of the western Himalayas that showed more than half of the glaciers contained within a 7,700 square mile area to be fixed in size or growing. Regional disparities may account for this unexpected stability.

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