Temperature rise, low winter precipitation causing retreat of glacier at Zanskar Valley: Study

Temperature rise, low winter precipitation causing retreat of glacier at Zanskar Valley: Study

New Delhi, Aug 6: The Pensilungpa Glacier (PG) located in Ladakh'sZanskar Valley is retreating due to increase in temperature and decrease in precipitation during winters, a recent study has found.

Since 2015, the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) at Dehradun, an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology, has been working on various aspects on glaciology glacier health (mass balance) monitoring, dynamics, discharge, past climatic conditions, speculation for future climate change and its impact on glaciers in this region.

A team of scientists from the institute ventured to study the less explored region of the Himalayas at Zanskar in Ladakh.

“Based on field observations for glacier mass balance collected via stake networking (stake made of bamboo, is installed (insert) on the glacier surface using the steam drill for mass balance measurement) over the glacier surface since 2016-2019, they assessed the impact of climate change through the lens of past and present response of the Pensilungpa Glacier (PG), Zanskar Himalaya, Ladakh,” the study said.

“Field observations for the last four years (2015 2019) showed that the glacier is now retreating at an average rate of 6.7 plus/minus 3 m a-1 (meter per annum),” it said.

In the study published in the journal ‘Regional Environmental Change’, the team attributes the observed recessional trends of the Pensilungpa Glacier to an increase in the temperature and decrease in precipitation during winters.

The study also points at the significant influence of debris cover on the mass balance and retreat of the glacier's endpoint, especially in summer.

Furthermore, the mass balance data for the last three years (2016 2019) showed a negative trend with a small accumulation area ratio.

The study also suggests that due to continuous rise in the air temperature in line with the global trend, the melting would increase, and it is possible that the precipitation of summer periods at higher altitudes will change from snow to rain, and that may influence the summer and winter pattern.

In a written response to a question in Lok Sabha on Thursday, Prahlad Singh Patel, Minister of State in the Jal Shakti Ministry, said studies have revealed that the Himalayan glaciers are retreating in general but not at a rapid pace.

The studies showed that glaciers with an area of more than 10 square km are unlikely to get affected appreciably in the coming years. However, smaller glaciers of less than 2 square km areas are likely to show rapid changes, Patel had said.

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