Himalayan Glaciers Receding Faster Than Others In The World: Study

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Prayagraj: The Himalayan glaciers are reportedly retreating faster than in other parts of the world. According to a study, the Gangotri glacier, the origin of the holy river Ganga has receded 63 m in the last 360 years. It is expected to shrink further by 1.8 km in the next 80 years.

This was reported by scientists from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in Uttarakhand. They are studying trees and shrubs that grow close to Gangotri to understand how much of it has receded over time.

The findings of the study were published in the ‘Quaternary International’ by Elsevier in which the scientists have tried to determine how old each tree was and how far from the terminus (end of a glacier) it was now, they could calculate the minimum distance the glacier had receded.

So far, only 11 Himalayan glaciers have been studied for mass balance and some 100 are being monitored for fluctuations, the study said.

“Glaciers are directly governed by climatic conditions. So, they are more susceptible to the effects of climate change,” lead author Jayraj Singh told The Times of India. This reflects in the vegetation that can grow around them, he added.

Himalayan birch at Bhojbasa is the oldest tree (at least 1571) to be recorded in the study.

This endorsed that there existed a forest … (and that) Bhojbasa was snow/ice-free much before 1571,” the study said. At the time, the tree was 1.4 km from the glacier terminus. Now, it’s 3.26 km away — meaning the glacier has moved 1.86 km.

“Its net retreat was only 63m during 1571-1934,” the study said. Since then, it has retreated another 1.8km. “The glacier terminus retreat has accelerated since 1957 (1.57km), which is consistent with the observed regional warming.”

Global warming is a major reason behind the receding of glaciers.

“Weather records from the western Himalayan region clearly show … the warming rate is higher since the late 20th century (1.6°C). Winter warming in the western Himalayan region has been found to be relatively higher … Warming in the Himalayan region has also been reported to be altitude-sensitive, higher elevations showing higher rate of warming,” Singh said.

According to Singh, the Gangotri glacier might face accelerated recession at an unprecedented rate than ever experienced in the past 447 years. “Glaciers contribute water to the ecosystem throughout the year … Rapid retreat of glaciers in the Himalayan region is a cause of concern,” he said.

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