Increasing Temperature and Low Winter Precipitation are Causing Retreat of Glaciers in Zanskar Valley, Ladakh

New Delhi: The Pensilungpa Glacier (PG), located in Zanskar, Ladakh, is retreating, and a recent study has attributed the retreat to an increase in the temperature and decrease in precipitation during winters. Since 2015, the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, GoI, has been working on various aspects on glaciology, i.e., 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, i.e., Zanskar, Ladakh.

 

Based on field observations for glaciers 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. Field observations for the last 4 years (2015–2019) showed that the glacier is now retreating by at an average rate of 6.7 ± 3 m a−1. 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 3 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.

 

Publication Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10113-021-01766-2

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