M A I N   N E W S

It’s raining snow in Himalayas
Raises hopes of more flow in streams
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 3
There could be some reason for environmentalists to cheer. This year has seen a significant increase in snowfall in the upper region of Western Himalayas, the primary source of river water for northern India, vis-à-vis the past few years. This translates to the prospect of longer winters and increased fresh water flow in spring.

“We have received 70 per cent more than the average snow normally expected in November,” Ashwagosha Ganju, director of the DRDO’s Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), said. “Over the past few years, snow precipitation during this period was about just about 40 per cent of the normal,” he added.

More precipitation in early winters means that snow cover would remain for a longer duration and melt-off is less due to decreasing temperatures. Consequently, larger snow cover reflects greater amount of solar radiation back into the atmosphere, thereby preventing the earth’s surface from heating up. The gaps between snow spells, however, should not be too long if the snow cover is to remain high.

Information compiled by government agencies, the average depth of snow cover over the Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh over 3000 metres was about 30 cm at the beginning of the month. The depth, though, varies from place to place and at certain points is over a metre deep.

Studies and observations have revealed that with the impact of global warming, there have been climatic changes recently in lower Himalayan regions at altitudes ranging from 1500-2000 metres, resulting in lower precipitation.

“Winters at lower altitudes have started shrinking, with severe winters being reduced from about four-and-a-half month to about two months,” the director said. “At higher altitudes there has not been any significant impact on snow cover so far,” he added.

Talking about reports of Himalayan glaciers melting, Ashwagosha Ganju said there have been varied views on the subject. Observations have shown that there is no visible change in the state of glaciers at high altitudes.

There have also been reports that the strategically vital Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield, is also receding. According to SASE director, there has been some melt-off in the snout of the glacier and some other pockets, but the glacier as such is intact.



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