Questions for “Surprising long-haul dust and tar are melting high glaciers”

a green glacial lake high in the Himalayas

Scientists have long known that climate change is melting glaciers in the Himalayas. But new studies are finding that dust is another big factor when it comes to disappearing ice.

Nitish Waila/iStock/Getty Images Plus

To accompany “Surprising long-haul dust and tar are melting high glaciers


Before Reading:

1. Glaciers have been melting at an accelerating rate across much of the globe. What do you think is behind that?

2. What’s the big deal if glaciers melt or even disappear?

During Reading:

1.  What is the Roof of the World and how did this area get its name?

2.  Where does meltwater from the Himalayas go? Why is it important and who benefits from its presence?

3.  What three types of plumes did Thomas Painter and his colleagues see, and how did they “see” them? According to their new data, where did the different plumes fly?

4.  What appears to be the source of each type of plume?

5.  Why do these pollutant particles affect melting? And at what altitude did the dust impacts appear most exaggerated?

6.  What did the research by Fei Li’s group show about the potential effects of Arctic melting on glaciers half a world away? Explain the apparent steps that would lead from the Arctic to that melting of distant glaciers.

After Reading:

1.  If communities downstream of the Asian glaciers lose meltwater, what do you think will happen to them, long-term? How might they adapt?

2.  What might be ways to slow impacts of the high-flying pollutants described in the two new studies? In what way is this a local problem? In what ways is it a global problem?