Experts say climate change behind Uttarakhand glacier break off

A rare incident, they say; temperatures rising in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region

Experts say climate change behind Uttarakhand glacier break off

A general view during a flood in Uttarakhand on February 7, 2021, in this still grab obtained from a video. Via Reuters

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi February 7

Experts are citing climate change as the reason behind the flood caused by a glacier breaking off in Uttarakhand, a “rare incident” by any measure according to them. 

Prima facie this looks very much like a climate change event as the glaciers are melting due to global warming, says Anjal Prakash, the lead author of the ongoing 6th Assessment report of IPCC.

Temperatures are rising in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region and the rise in global temperature will have more impact in the Himalayan region due to elevation-dependent warming, he says citing reports  

Prakash says the IPCC’s Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) reports that climate change has altered the frequency and magnitude of the natural hazards”. 

 “The scientist reported with medium confidence that in some regions snow avalanches involving wet snow have increased while the rain on snow floods have also increased at lower elevations in springs.  We do not have the data now to give you information on what has caused the avalanche in the Chamoli district but what we know, prima facie, is that this looks very much like a climate change event as the glaciers are melting due to global warming,” she said.

“The impact of global warming on glacial retreat is well documented. The recent assessment report called the HI-MAP report facilitated by ICIMOD has also pointed these out. The report shows that temperatures are rising in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region and the rise in global temperature will have more impact in the Himalayan region due to elevation-dependent warming. If the world can keep the temperature rise to below 1.5°Celsius, in the HKH region it would translate to at least a rise of 1.8°C, and in some places, above 2.2°C. Himalayan regions area also the least monitored region and this event actually shows how vulnerable we could be”. 

Prakash suggests that the government should spend more resources in monitoring the region better so that we have more information about the change process.

“The result would be that we are more aware and could develop better adaptation practices,” he said.

Anjal Prakash is the Research Director and Adjunct Associate Professor at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. 

Meanwhile, Farooq Azam, Assistant Professor, Glaciology and Hydrology, IIT Indore, says: “It’s a very rare incident for a glacial burst to happen. Satellite and Google Earth images do not show a glacial lake near the region, but there’s a possibility that there may be a water pocket in the region. Water pockets are lakes inside the glaciers, which may have erupted leading to this event”.

“We need further analysis, weather reports, and data to confirm if this indeed was the case. It is unlikely that this was a cloud burst since weather reports in Chamoli district show sunny weather till today with no record of precipitation. There is no doubt that global warming has resulted in the warming of the region.” 

“Climate change-driven erratic weather patterns like increased snowfall and rainfall, warmer winters have led to the melting point of a lot of snow. The thermal profile of ice is increasing, where earlier the temperature of ice ranged from -6 to -20°C, it is now -2°C, making it more susceptible to melting.”

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