Himalayan glaciers are alive and kicking!
Keylong/Udaipur, July 11
Himalayan glaciers that feed the Chenab and Beas valleys are alive and kicking, and may "ring in an era of slight cooling". Reason: The longest glacier, Mayar, and the largest glacier, Bara Shigri, and the monsoon-fed Parbati glacier have been receiving "better snowfall" for the past three years and have stabilised, say glaciologists.
Contrary to popular belief, snowfall in the Himalayas, in fact, has been on the rise and avalanches can be seen near the Chandra-Bhaga-Mayar rivers here in June. The major glaciers in this part of the Himalayas have shown a positive trend and it bodes well for hydropower projects and farmers in the region, say scientists.
The snowfall in 2010-11 was the heaviest since 1979 in the Mayar-Chandra valley. "It was not dry snow, but was heavy with moisture content that improves the formation of glaciers", said the glaciologists.
However, its impact on glaciers will be visible after 10 years as a glacier's "response time is more then 10 years", says Prof Milap Sharma, a geomorphologist at the Centre for Regional Development, JNU, New Delhi, who has been studying glaciers over the years here.
Professor Sharma studied four major glaciers - Manthora, Karpat, Ulthampu and Tharong in the Mayar valley last month and found that the first two have stabilised and, in fact, Manthora has increased in size. "However, the last two have reduced, but Ulthampu is a hanging glacier and does not matter much," he observes.
Professor Sharma says the Mayar glacier is the longest and it has shrunk by just 120 m since 1975. "However, the snowfall has improved during the past three years and is bound to have an impact on the ice cover. But we need 32 years to see its impact on climate change," he adds.
Similarly, the Bara Shigri glacier, which has the largest ice cover - 192 sq km - in the Himalayas, has witnessed no change so far. The 4-km-long Pin Parbati glacier in the Beas valley has been stable for years, Professor Sharma says.
The scientists say that climate change has shown a cyclic change after 27 years, alternating between "slight global cooling and slight global warming". "The trend since 2008 is towards "slight cooling".
But we need another 30 years to draw a conclusion on climate change", Professor Sharma cautions.
On the other hand, the Snow and Avalanche Establishment (SASE) observes that the snowfall in the Bhaga valley at Patsio and the Beas valley at Dhundi has increased during the past five years.xThe Director of SASE, Dr Ashvaghosh Ganju, said Dhundi received 1,358 cm of snowfall in 2010-11, almost double than the 708 cm received in 2009-10. "However, in the Bhaga valley, we recorded 448 cm of snowfall in 2007-08 while it was 444 cm in 2010-11. The snowfall shows a cyclic trend from year to year and hence no analysis can be done, the SASE Director adds.