Environment

Gangotri glacier is ‘rapidly disintegrating’

File photo of Greenpeace activists hang from Howrah Bridge in Kolkata unfurling banners to raise alarm about the impact of human induced climate change on River Ganges.

File photo of Greenpeace activists hang from Howrah Bridge in Kolkata unfurling banners to raise alarm about the impact of human induced climate change on River Ganges.  

The Gangotri glacier is rapidly disintegrating, states the latest observation of a team from the Almora-based G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development.

The team of the institute, which has been monitoring the Himalayan glaciers, particularly the Gangotri, since 1999, visited the glacier between June and October, this year.

Kireet Kumar, Scientist in the Glacial Study Centre of the institute, said, “Our team has been observing disintegration in the snout of the Gangotri glacier for around three year now. This time the team observed that the disintegration on the right side of the snout is taking place at a rapid rate.”

Dr. Kumar said rapid melting of the Raktvarn, Chaturangi, and Thelu — tributary glaciers of the Gangotri, which are placed at a higher altitude than the Gangotri and are towards its right — as the reason behind the heavy disintegration.

Gangotri: Shrinking and retreating

A 2008 research report published in Current Science titled ‘Estimation of retreat rate of Gangotri glacier using rapid static and kinematic GPS survey,’ stated: ‘The Gangotri glacier is retreating like other glaciers in the Himalayas and its volume and size are shrinking as well.’

The glacier has retreated more than 1,500 metres (m) in the last 70 years. Post 1971, the rate of retreat of the glacier has declined. Dr Kumar said the latest data projects that post 2000 the average rate of retreat of the glacier per year has been about 12 to 13 m.

Dr. Kumar said global warming was not the only factor, but, it was an important factor that was resulting in glacial retreat.

The Gangotri, one of the largest Himalayan glaciers, is in Uttarkashi district. Originating at about 7,100 m above sea level, the glacier is 30.2 kilometre (km) long and has a width that varies between 0.5 and 2.5 km. The Bhagirathi river, which is one of the main tributaries of the Ganga, originates from the glacier.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 9:05:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/gangotri-glacier-is-rapidly-disintegrating/article6538474.ece

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