Posts Tagged "india"

Researchers Question Glacier Study

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Researchers Question Glacier Study

Spread the News:ShareThis article has been republished on GlacierHub and was originally posted on the personal blog of Joseph Michael Shea. Shea is a glacier hydrologist with the International Center for Integrated Mountain (ICIMOD) and is currently based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Follow him on Twitter here.  A paper published last year in the Indian journal Current Science (pdf) has recently been raised in the Indian parliament. A number of scientists have been rightfully critical of this paper in different online forums. In this post, I’m going to take a quick look at the results of the paper, which are surprising to anyone familiar with the current state of Himalayan glaciology. Why are the results surprising? Based on a sample of 2018 glaciers, the paper’s authors suggest that nearly 87% of the glaciers in the region have stable snouts, while 12% have retreating termini, and < 1% are advancing. There are a number of issues with these figures, which lead the authors to the incorrect conclusion  that glaciers in the region are actually in steady state. In no particular order, these issues are: Glacier snout position is determined by a complex range of factors, including climate, dynamics, and lag times. Over short periods (i.e. less than 10 years, as in this paper) the behaviour of the terminus may not be indicative of the overall health of a glacier. Glacier retreat is a very different thing from glacier mass loss. Glaciers lose mass primarily due to downwasting (surface lowering), not terminus retreat. And study after study has confirmed that glaciers across the region (except for the Karakoram) are losing mass. The position of the terminus on debris-covered glaciers can be  difficult to interpret, and it will not respond to climate change in the same way as the terminus on clean (debris-free) glaciers. The authors do not distinguish between debris-covered and clean glaciers in their terminus assessments. Its not clear how the 2018 glaciers were sampled. There are over 54,000 glaciers in the HKH region, and while a 3% sample size is not too bad, biased sampling for debris-covered or large glaciers make extrapolations to the entire population problematic. Finally, the “stable” glacier examples given in the paper actually show glaciers in retreat! Here is a Landsat pair (data available at www.earthexplorer.usgs.gov) from 2001 and 2014 for the Gangotri Glacier, in the Garwhal Himalaya (Figure 7 in theCurrent Science paper): Not only is the  Gangotri (the main north-flowing glacier in the center of the image) in retreat, but you can also literally see the downwasting occur as the distance between the active ice surface and the large lateral moraines gets bigger. Smaller glaciers throughout the region also appear to be in retreat. The authors also use the example of Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Range (Figure 8 in the Current Science paper). This is the terminus of a massive glacier system (ca. 700 km²) and the Landsat pairs I pulled from 2000 and 2013 also appear to show retreat and deflation at the terminus: Bottom line: the Current Science paper is simply not credible. The conclusion that > 80% of glaciers in the region are stable is based on incorrect interpretations of satellite imagery, a possibly biased sampling method, and an unjustified reliance on short-term changes in terminus position as an indicator of glacier health. Spread the...

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Glacier Stars in New Bollywood Film

Posted by on Oct 27, 2015 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Glacier Stars in New Bollywood Film

Spread the News:ShareIt is not unusual for the viewer of a Bollywood movie to be transported to the pyramids of Egypt, the Swiss Alps, or even the metropolis of midtown Manhattan, as the backdrop for actors’ most intense emotion–whether that is romantic love or a sense of being lost in the world. Recently, the Thajiwas glacier, in disputed territory between India and Pakistan, became the set for Bajrangi Bhaijan, a Bollywood movie that explores relations between the two countries through the story of a young girl and a good Samaritan. The movie, released this summer, stars Salman Khan and is directed by Kabir Khan. It tells of the heroic quest of Pawan (played by Salman Khan) to return a lost young girl to her parents. But Shahida, the young girl, (played by Harshaali Malhotra), cannot speak—she is mute. As Pawan and Shahida journey, Pawan must try to communicate with her and find out where she is from. He eventually learns that he must go to Pakistan to return Shahida to her family. Shahida’s home is in the Pakistani Himalayas, but to get there, she and Pawan must cross through the varied geography of India, from the Thar Desert in the north of the country, to the mountainous region near the Thajiwas. The greenery of mountain grasses combined with the snow-covered Himalayas has been referred to as “Asia’s Switzerland”—Shahida actually tries to communicate where she is from with a photo of what turns out to be Switzerland during the movie. Once he gets close to Shahida’s home, Pawan is captured by the Pakistani authorities, whom he defied by illegally crossing the border. A Pakistani security agent is forced to confront a conflict between the justice of Pawan’s mission and his duty to his higher ups–corrupt government bureaucrats who want to portray Pawan as an Indian black agent. He decides to let Pawan go. Pawan is escorted by thousands of supporters who force the border agents, at a made-up border crossing at the Thajiwas, to let Pawan return. In reality, the Thajiwas glacier, and the locations where the scenery were filmed, are located in India, not Pakistan. The region is in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is a disputed area between India and Pakistan (GlacierHub in 2014 covered the conflict between India and Pakistan in glacier-covered territory here and here). The relationship between the two countries and the competing religious identities is a major theme of the movie. The beautiful scenery is depicted as belonging to both countries and being part of a shared cultural heritage, challenging the political status quo. The Himalayas are shared between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, China, and Bhutan, so this region is vulnerable to the political instability between these countries. However, tension between these countries does not deter tourists, who flocked to the Kashmir Valley at a rate of 1.4 million in 2011/2012. The Thajiwas glacier and its nearby town of Sonamarg are major tourist attractions, with sledding and pony rides that enable tourists to explore the region, which is inaccessible to cars after a certain point. The movie shows the beauty of this area as well as the surrounding landscape, including the alpine forests, which draw tourists every year. The local economy depends on these tourist dollars, which generally come in during the summer. Filming in this location presented logistical challenges due to the elevation and accessibility. The scene shot at the glacier involved 7,000 extras, who needed to be transported to the area. Though the movie depicts the area as a border crossing, there is no actual crossing there, and a combination of...

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Roundup: French Presidential Visit, Trek Itinerary, and Dangerous Glacial Lakes

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: French Presidential Visit, Trek Itinerary, and Dangerous Glacial Lakes

Spread the News:ShareFrench president visits glacier to witness climate change “PARIS — The French president took a few steps on an Icelandic glacier Friday to experience firsthand the damage caused by global warming, ahead of major U.N. talks on climate change in Paris this year. Francois Hollande went to the shrinking Solheimajokull glacier, where the ice has retreated by more than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) since annual measurements began in 1931.” To read more about the President’s visit, click here.   How to find Yosemite’s disappearing glacier “The Lyell Glacier, once a mile wide and Yosemite’s largest glacier when measured by John Muir in 1872, could melt off and disappear in as soon as five years, according to park geologist Greg Stock, if warm temperatures at high elevations continue. Chronicle outdoors writer Tom Stienstra visited the park to report on the glacier’s vanishing. This is the trek itinerary.” Click here to read more.   Global warming creating dangerous glacier lakes in Himalayas, finds study “As the black clouds heavily pregnant with water vapour hovered over Dehradun on June 15, 2013, it looked ominous. Around 13,000 feet above the sea level, rain was already tanking up Chorabari Lake, a water body created by melting glaciers. On June 16 midnight, the heavy rain caused the lake’s rock bank to collapse, sending down a flash flood that swept through the holy Himalayan pilgrimage site Kedarnath, killing 5,000 people. There are 1,266 such Chorabari lakes in Uttarakhand’s Himalayan regions, some of which have been created fresh by the rapid retreat of glaciers due to global warming, found a study by Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, an autonomous body of the central government.” To read more about the study’s findings, click here.   Spread the...

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India’s Hydroelectric Plans Threaten Local Comunities

Posted by on Sep 22, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts | 0 comments

India’s Hydroelectric Plans Threaten Local Comunities

Spread the News:Share  Indigenous Buddhist tribes in northeast India are protesting government plans to build fifteen new hydroelectric sites along their settlement region. The Monpa tribe, which lives along the Tawang river basin in over 234 scattered settlements in Arunachal Pradesh, fears that the hydroelectric projects will affect their religious sites and monasteries, as well as the region’s springs, and biological diversity, which carry large cultural significance for the tribe. The region is also at risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), which could have hazardous impacts on hydroelectric projects. The government is proceeding with the construction of one particularly contentious hydroelectric site: a 780MW station along the Nyamjang Chhu river that threatens a cultural and religiously significant migration site of endangered black-necked cranes. This site will occupy the middle of a 3-km stretch of the Nyamjang Chhu river, which is partially fed by the region’s glaciers and along which eight black-necked cranes reside during their winter migration.  The Monpa eagerly await the birds’ arrival, and revere their species as the reincarnation of the sixth Dalai Lama. In late July of 2015, the Save Mon Region Federation sent a letter to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the ministry, accusing NJC Hydropower, the independent company building the Nyanjan Chhu hydroelectric site, of purposely concealing information about the black-necked cranes’ wintering site. Allegedly, the company didn’t cooperate with the study’s researchers until the end of winter, when the black-necked cranes had left their wintering site. “The hydroelectric projects will totally destroy natural habitats in the region,” Asad Rahmani, scientific adviser of the Bombay Natural History Society, told the Guardian. “When planning such projects, we’re not paying attention to their impact on local culture. The electricity is for people like us in the cities, but all the damage is suffered by the local people.” In addition to going ahead with the highly disputed site placement, the Dehli government has plans for another fourteen proposed hydroelectric projects in the Tawang region. These projects are part of major government efforts to bring power to the 300 million people living without electricity by 2022. The government will also increase solar, wind and coal generation in the next seven years. “We don’t need so many hydel projects to meet the electricity demand of our people,” Save Mon Region Federation’s general secretary, Lobsang Gyatso, told the Times of India. “Small hydro-projects would suffice. All these large dams are meant to generate electricity to be sold outside, at the cost of our livelihoods and ecology.” To express concerns about the new hydroelectric plans, villagers in the Tawang region organized a large rally in December of 2012. The protesters alleged that the government had developed hydroelectric projects with private utility developers without proper consent from the residents in the region. The region currently maintains a ban against public gathering. In addition, the relatively unexplored, mountainous region in the Eastern Himalayas is especially prone to the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), as are most regions of this type, which poses risky problems to hydroelectric development. GLOFs are one of the major hazards of mountainous, glacial regions, especially those susceptible to climate change. Tawang’s lakes and rivers are mainly supplied by snowmelt and the melting glaciers of the Himalayas. The lakes, while usually dammed by end-moraines, have a tendency to flash flood, which induces large volumes of flowing water, large quantities of sediment runoff, as well as potential flowing boulders and the risk of washing away mountain valleys. GLOFs are often responsible for catastrophic flooding, large losses of property, and human life. While the region’s dams have a combined capacity of...

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Glacier Lake Bursts in Bhutan

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Glacier Lake Bursts in Bhutan

Spread the News:ShareOn the morning of Sunday 28 June, an earthquake in India caused a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood in northern Bhutan.  Local residents alerted officials, who activated warning systems and ordered evacuations downstream. Rivers  rose to high levels, but no fatalities occurred. By Monday night, the rivers had begun to fall. The United States Geological Survey reported an earthquake of 5.5 on the modified Richter scale at 7:05 AM local time, at 17km north-northeast of the town of Basugaon, in Assam State, India and 22 km south of the town of Gelephu in  Sarpang District, Bhutan. Light to moderate shaking was reported from Nepal and Bangladesh as well as Bhutan and India. Sonam Choden in Thimphu in western Bhutan reported on Facebook “the earthquake rocked my husband right back on to sleeping.” Sangay Wangchuk, who lives in Jakar in central Bhutan, wrote “Ap Naka wags its tail again.” Ap Naka means “father earthquake,” referring to the common belief that the earth is held by a giant male spirit whose movements cause earthquakes. The immediate damage in Bhutan was negligible, and even in India it was slight. Three persons sustained minor injuries when an old wall collapsed near the railway station in Kokrajhar, Assam, injuring three people. At an ancient temple in Chirang district, Assam, a sculpture of a lion was knocked off its base. A glacial lake, Lemthang Tsho, located about 95 km northwest of the epicenter, burst later that day. This lake, also known as Shinchila Tsho, is located in Laya County in Gasa District in northern Bhutan, close to the border with China.   According to Kuensel, Kinley Dorji, a county official  in Laya, stated that mushroom collectors in the high pastures near glaciers had called him to let him know about the outburst from the lake, which is one of the sources of the Mochu, a major river of Central Bhutan. He, in turn, alerted district officials in Gasa and in Punakha and Wangdue, two large districts downstream on the Mochu. He also spoke with police, hospitals and officials at a large hydroelectric station at Punatsangchu. Officials at the three major gauges along the Mochu monitored the water levels closely. They began sounding the sirens around 6:30 pm, even before the rivers reached the level for alerts, because they were concerned about additional risks from the monsoon rains, which had been heavy during the preceding weeks. The sirens caused panic among many residents, and they were turned off after more than an hour. The Prime Minster ordered evacuations along the Mochu River and at the hydropower station at 9:30pm, and reports suggest that these were largely complete within an hour. Patients at a hospital close to the river were moved to a military hospital at higher ground. The river peaked late that evening, with high waters at Punakha a bit before midnight and at Wangdue later on. Fortunately, the towns were not damaged. The historic fortress or dzong of Punakha had been partially destroyed by a glacier lake outburst flood in 1994, so residents were concerned. The residents returned to their homes the next morning. Power, which had been cut in Punakha, was also restored. Teams traveled through the area on 29 and 30 June to examine the damage. They reported that six wooden bridges had been washed out, isolating some villages and Laya town, and impeding the assessment efforts. Several groups of mushroom collectors were stranded on the far side of the now-empty Lemthang Tsho lake. ++ without the bridges connecting to their villages. Laya stands totally cut off from Gasa or Lingzhi after the Shinchey La lake outburst!...

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