Inter-university consortium embarks on glacier studies

Caption: The snout of the Chhota Shigri glacier in the Pir Panjal range in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh. The snout of the Chhota Shigri glacier which has been receding over the years in Spiti Valley- photo credit Meena Menon   | Photo Credit: mail pic

For the first time, an Inter-University Consortium on Cryosphere and Climate Change (IUCCCC) is undertaking glacier studies in four States in India, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). Also unprecedented is the participation of the University of Jammu and the University of Kashmir in this effort.

Prof. Bharat Desai, of the Jawaharlal Nehru University School (JNU) of International Studies told The Hindu that in November, 2012 vice chancellors of JNU, the University of Jammu, the University of Kashmir and Sikkim University took the initiative and got the project going. DST supported the five -year study with Rs. 18 crore but the important aspect is that the study is using state of the art equipment and technology to study glaciers. Prof. Milap Chand Sharma, of JNU said the study of different glaciers is aimed at examining the link between cryosphere changes and impacts on society.

“The glaciers we chose feed into the irrigation systems in the villages and also meet water requirements, and any changes in temperature will be reflected in the water supply and glacier mass,” Prof. Sharma said. Of the funds from DST, Rs. 13 crore will go towards buying sophisticated equipment to measure black carbon deposits on glaciers and Green House Gases (GHGs) and install “robotic total stations” which map the glacier area apart from ground penetrating radars which give the total mass of ice.

For the first time, the Universities engaged in the research have access to this type of equipment and another major component of the study is computing the chronology of glaciers. Isotopic studies of ice will be conducted by the University of Kashmir and radio carbon dating by Jammu. In addition the study will have optical dating of sediments to find out their age upto half a million years, Prof. Sharma explained. This data on dating sediments will be related to global climate change phases and regional ones too since there are variations, he added.

The study involves glaciers in Kashmir, Karakoram, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand. JNU is studying two glaciers each in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. In Jammu and Kashmir seven glaciers will be studied apart from two in Sikkim.

The study was launched in April 2013 and preliminary work has been completed. These glaciers are being studied as benchmark glaciers since they have communities dependant on them, Prof. Sharma said. Villages like Harsil depend on the waters from the Kalapani glacier in Uttarakhand while in Himachal Pradesh the Menthosa glacier has four villages which use its water.

The study was in a way sparked off by the erroneous prediction of glaciers melting by 2035 in the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). After five years, the Consortium plans to collaborate and look for funding from foreign universities in the future. Already students intern at universities in the USA for research.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 6:45:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/interuniversity-consortium-embarks-on-glacier-studies/article6570130.ece

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