Friday, August 31, 2012

Kashmir’s melting glaciers may cut ice with skeptics

Athar Parvaiz in IPS: ...That the weather is warming over Kashmir is not news for climate scientists who have shown in several studies that the glaciers in the vast Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalaya (HKKH) region – called the world’s ‘third pole’ – are melting and receding at an increasing pace. In the latest of these studies, European scientists led by Andreas Kaab of the department of geosciences, University of Oslo, have shown that glacial melt is worse in the Kashmir Himalayas than in other regions of the HKKH.

Kaab’s findings, published in the Aug. 23 edition of ‘Nature’, suggest that Kashmir’s glaciers may be receding by as much as half-a-metre annually, presenting an immediate threat to the rivers that  feed into the Indus basin. “Glaciers are among the best indicators of terrestrial climate variability,” said Kaab in the study. “They contribute importantly to water resources in many mountainous regions and are a major contributor to global sea-level rise.” Kaab said that while there is a paucity of glacier data in the HKKH region, there is “indirect evidence of a complex pattern of glacial responses” to climate change.

Prof. Shakil Romshoo, who teaches geology and geophysics at Kashmir University, says that studies that he and his colleagues conducted in 2009 showed that Kashmir’s glaciers were melting at an increasing pace. “We have been saying for many years now that Kashmir’s glaciers are melting at an ever faster rate,” Romshoo told IPS. His team found that the Kolhai glacier, one of the largest in Kashmir, had shrunk to 11 sq km, losing two sq km over a period of 40 years.

Another scientific study on the Kashmir Himalayas had also shown that the snow cover over the region was on the decline. The study, led by glaciologist H. S. Negi, was published in the December 2009 issue of ‘Journal of Earth System Sciences’, a bi-monthly published in India. Negi, who is attached to the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment of India’s defence ministry, based his findings on 20 years of remote satellite-based climatic data, covering the period 1988 – 2008. According to Negi’s findings, where total snowfall in the Kashmir valley was 1,082 cm in 2004-05, it had declined to 968 cm during 2005-2006 and reduced further to 961 cm by 2006-2007.

Kolahoi Glacier and Mt.Kolahoi. It's the tallest mountain in the Kashmir Valley. Shot by Irfanaru, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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