Climate Change's Toll on Himalayan Glacial Lakes: ISRO's Satellite Insights

Aerial view of expanded glacial lakes in the Indian Himalayas, as revealed by ISRO's satellite monitoring, highlighting the impact of climate change
Climate Change's Toll on Himalayan Glacial Lakes: ISRO's Satellite Insights

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has conducted an extensive analysis revealing the alarming expansion of glacial lakes in the Himalayan region. Satellite monitoring data spanning over three decades illustrates a significant increase in the size of these lakes, primarily attributed to the adverse effects of human-induced climate change.

Key Findings:

ISRO's analysis encompassed over 2,400 glacial lakes, with more than a quarter exhibiting notable expansion since 1984. Within India, 130 of these expanding lakes are situated in the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra river basins. The majority of these lakes have experienced a doubling in size, with some expanding by up to 1.5 times.

Ghepang Ghat Glacial Lake Case Study:

A specific case study highlighted by ISRO is the Ghepang Ghat glacial lake in Himachal Pradesh. Over the past three decades, this lake has expanded by 178%, posing a significant risk to surrounding communities.

Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) Risks:

The proliferation of glacial lakes presents a pressing concern due to the heightened risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). Such events, triggered by various factors, including avalanches and extreme weather conditions, have resulted in significant loss of life and property in the past.

Importance of Satellite Monitoring:

Satellite remote sensing technology has emerged as a crucial tool in monitoring and studying glacial lakes, providing invaluable insights into glacier retreat rates and GLOF risks. This technology offers unparalleled coverage and revisit capability, essential for assessing long-term changes in the Himalayan ecosystem.

Significance of Himalayas and Glacial Lakes:

Often referred to as the "Third Pole," the Himalayas are home to extensive glaciers and snow cover, making them vital freshwater sources for millions downstream. The rapid expansion of glacial lakes underscores the urgent need for conservation efforts and effective climate action strategies in the region.

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