Recent glacier changes in the Kashmir Alpine Himalayas, India

Using Landsat data at decadal interval (1980-2013), the glacier fluctuations (glacier area, equilibrium line altitude and specific mass balance) of nine benchmark glaciers in Kashmir Himalaya was estimated. The observed changes were related with topographic and climatic variables in order to understand their influence. From the data analysis, it was observed that the glaciers have shrunk by 17%, ELA has shifted upwards (80-300 m), and SMB shows variation in glacier mass loss from -0.77 to -0.16 m.w.e. Annual air temperature showed a significant increasing trend and a slight but insignificant decrease in precipitation was observed during the period. It is evident that, in the same climatic regime, varying topography plays a key role in determining the glacier changes. It is believed that the observed changes in the glacier geometry and dynamics, if continued, shall have adverse effect on the streamflows, water supplies and other dependent sectors in the region.

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