Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Seasonal rapid advancement of Surging Glaciers in Karakoram Range


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Glaciers mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Glacial surges and their impacts

Indian researchers have found a seasonal advancement in 220 surge-type glaciers in the Karakoram Range of Ladakh.

Points to note:

1) Open you map and revise the glaciers of Himalayan region.

2) Glacial landforms as Geographic phenomenon.

What are Glacial Surges?

Click here to see the animated view

  • Glacial surges are short-lived events where a glacier can advance substantially, moving at velocities up to 100 times faster than normal.
  • Until recently, most glaciologists believed that a glacier’s physical characteristics, such as its thickness and shape, and the properties of the terrain it sits on determining whether it can surge.
  • Now, it is proved to believe an external factor also plays a major role: water from precipitation and melting.
  • Pooling on the surface, it can infiltrate the glacier through crevasses and reach its base, warming, lubricating, and, ultimately, releasing the ice.

Why surging in the Karakoram is a concern?

  • The behaviour of these glaciers, which represent 40% of the total glaciated area of the Karakoram, goes against the normal trend.
  • Surging of glaciers is potentially catastrophic as it can lead to the destruction of villages, roads and bridges.
  • It can also advance across a river valley and form the ice-dammed lake.
  • These lakes can form catastrophic outburst floods.
  • Therefore, monitoring of glacier surges, ice-dammed lake formation, and drainage is of paramount importance.

Which are these glaciers?

  • The scientists focused on the Shispare and Muchuhar glaciers, former tributaries of the once larger Hasanabad Glacier situated in Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan.

Significance of the study

  • The Surge-type glaciers oscillate between brief (months to years) rapid flow and lengthy (tens to hundreds of years) slow flow or stagnation, which are called the ‘active’ (or ‘surge’) and ‘quiescent’ phases, respectively.
  • This unsteady glacier flow makes it difficult to accurately assess individual glacier mass balances using in-situ observations.
  • The study will help to understand the diversity of glacial behaviour and help make accurate assessments of individual glacier mass balances for disaster planning and management.
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