Glaciers in Sikkim are losing mass faster than other parts of the Himalaya

Glaciers in Sikkim are losing mass faster than other parts of the Himalaya
Glaciers in Sikkim are losing mass faster than other parts of the Himalaya

Figure- Example of lake changes on two glaciers in the Sikkim during 1991–2015. (Photo Courtesy: Ministry of Science & Technology/PIB)


New Delhi, March 25 (MExN): Glaciers in Sikkim are melting at a higher magnitude as compared to other Himalayan regions according to a recent study, an official statement by the Ministry of Science & Technology informed on March 25.


Scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun an autonomous research institute for the study of Geology of the Himalaya under the Department of Science and Technology took the study, informed the statement released via PIB Delhi.


The study published in Science of the Total Environment assessed the response of 23 glaciers of Sikkim to climate change for the period of 1991-2015, it said.


It revealed that glaciers in Sikkim have retreated and deglaciated significantly from 1991 to 2015 and small-sized glaciers are retreating while larger glaciers are thinning due to climate change, it added.


According to the study, compared to other Himalayan regions, the magnitude of dimensional changes and debris growth are higher in the Sikkim.


 A major shift in glacier behavior has occurred around 2000 and contrary to the western and central Himalaya, where glaciers are reported to have slowed down in recent decades, the Sikkim glaciers have shown negligible deceleration after 2000, the report added.


 Summer temperature rise has been prime driver of glacier changes.


To understand the various parameters of Sikkim Himalayas glaciers such as length, area, debris cover, snow-line altitude (SLA), and how they respond to global warming Scientists from WIHG selected 23 representative glaciers from this region as per the study.


A detailed and rigorous literature survey related to the study was carried out to assess the existing knowledge in the subject and thereafter, representative glaciers well spread over the study area were selected based on multiple criteria such as size, length, debris cover, slope, aspect, and so on.


Then, the multi-temporal and multi-sensor satellite data covering selected glaciers was procured. The team analyzed the results and compared with existing studies, and the impact of various influencing factors was systematically explored to understand the glaciers state, it added.      


However, the behavior of glaciers in the region is heterogeneous and found to be primarily determined by glacier size, debris cover, and glacial lakes.


Accurate knowledge of magnitude as well as the direction of glacier changes, as highlighted in the present study, can lead to awareness among common people regarding water supplies and possible glacier hazards, particularly to those communities that are living in close proximity, the release informed.


The study can provide ample baseline data on glacier changes and systematically explore the causal relationship between glacier parameters and various influencing factors.


A clear understanding of glacier state will help orienting future studies as well as taking necessary measures, it added.