A latest report, ‘Estimation of retreat rate of Gangotri glacier’, conducted by scientists from G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development in Almora, confirms that the Gangotri glacier has been shrinking rapidly. “The Gangotri glacier is retreating like other glaciers in the Himalayas and its volume and size is shrinking as well,” say the scientists.
River Bhagirathi, one of the main tributaries of the Ganga which originates from the glacier, has retreated more than 1,500 meters in the last 70 years. “From year 2000 onwards, the average rate of retreat of the glacier per year has been about 12 to 13 meters” said Dr. Kireet Kumar of the G.B. Pant Institute.
However, previous studies state that before 1971 the rate of ice melt was much higher than the current rate. And these fluctuations in the ice melt have been linked to global warming by many.
“Global warming is not the only factor resulting in glacial retreat. However, it might be one of the factors. The retreat in the past decade was higher than it is in this decade. However, there is some disintegration in the upper regions of the glacier which shows that some tectonic activities are going on in the region”, added Dr Kumar.
“It is true that the shrinking of the largest Himalayan glacier, Gangotri, cannot be ascertained on the basis of one single factor, global warming. Frequent seismic activity which displaces the glaciers, localized weather events and long term weather changes of a particular area over twenty years and more have to be taken into consideration before reaching at any significant conclusion”, said a senior meteorologist at Skymetweather.com
Earlier in 2012, a study led by Yao Tandong, director of the Institute of Tibetan Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and paleo-climatologist Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University, stated that the Himalayan glacier was retreating rapidly and soaring global temperatures could only be one of the factors.
Further, some researchers believe that the glaciers in the Garhwal Himalaya are retreating so fast that the central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035.
When temperatures rise and ice melts, more water flows into the seas due to which water bodies warm and expand in volume. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this combination of effect has played a major role in raising average global sea level between four and eight inches in the past hundred years.
Photo by redorbit.