Himalaya Glacier Index

Himalaya-Pamir-Hindu Kush-Tien Shan-Quilian-Karakoram Range Glacier Change

Below is a list of individual glaciers in the Himalaya and high mountains of Central Asia that illustrate what is happening glacier by glacier. In addition to the individual sample glaciers we tie the individual glaciers to the large scale changes of approximately 10,000 glaciers that have been examined in repeat satellite image inventories. In the high mountains of Central Asia detailed glacier mapping inventories, from GLIMS: (Global Land Ice Measurements from Space), ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), ISRO ( Indian Space Research Organisation) and Chinese National Committee for International Association of Cryospheric Science (IACS) of thousands of glaciers have indicated increased strong thinning and area loss since 1990 throughout the region except the Karokoram. The inventories rely on repeat imagery from ASTER, Corona, Landsat, IKONOS and SPOT imagery. It is simply not possible to make observations
on this number of glaciers in the field.

Reqiang Glacier, Tibet———-Ngozumpa Glacier, Nepal
Samudra Tupa, India———-Zemu Glacier, Sikkim
Theri Kang Glacier, Bhutan———-Zemestan Glacier, Afghanistan
Khumbu Glacier, Nepal———-Imja Glacier, Nepal
Gangotri Glacier, India———–Milam Glacier, India
Satopanth Glacier, India———-Kali Gandaki Headwaters, Nepal
Menlung Glacier, Tibet———-Boshula Glaciers, Tibet
Urumquihe Glacier, Tibet———-Sara Umaga Glacier, India
Dzhungharia Alatau, Kazakhstan———-Petrov Glacier,Kyrgyzstan
West Barun Glacier, Nepal—–Malana Glacier, India
Warwan Basin, India—–North Lhonak Glacier, Sikkim
Changsang Glacier, Sikkim——Emend River Headwaters, Afghanistan
Yajun Peak Glacier, Afghanistan—–Godur Glaicer, Pakistan
Tirich Mir, Pakistan—–Longbasba Glacier, Tibet
Lumding Glacier, Tibet—-Rongbuk Glacier, Tibet
Matsang Tsanpo Glacier, Tibet——-Sepu Kangri, China
Jiongla Glacier, Tibet—-Bode Zanbo Headwaters, Tibet
Zayul Chu Headwaters, TibetHkakabo Razi, Myanmar.
Jaonli Glacier, India
In the Russian Altai mapping of 126 glaciers indicate a 19.7 % reduction in glacier area 1952-2004, with a sharp increase after 1997 (Shahgedanova et al., 2010). In Garhwal Himalaya, India, of 58 glaciers examined from 1990-2006 area loss was 6% (Bhambri et al, 2011). They also noted the number of glaciers increased from 69 (1968) to 75 (2006) due to the disintegration of ice bodies. Examination of 466 glaciers in the Chenab, Parbati and Baspa Basin, India found a 21% decline in glacier area from 1962 to 2004 (Kulkarni, 2007). Glacier fragmentation was also observed in this study, which for some fragments represents a loss of the accumulation area, which means the glacier will not survive (Pelto, 2010). The India glacier inventory (ISRO, 2010) identified glacier area losses and frontal change on 2190 glaciers and found an area loss rate of 3.3% per decade and 76% of glaciers retreating. In the Nepal Himalaya area loss of 3808 glaciers from 1963-2009 is nearly 20% (Bajracharya et al., 2011). The Langtang sub-basin is a small northeast-southwest elongated basin, tributary of Trishuli River north of Kathmandu and bordered with China to the north. The basin contained 192 km2 of glacier area in 1977, 171 km2 in 1988, 152 km2 in 2000 and 142 km2 in 2009. In 32 years from 1977 to 2009 the glacier area declined by 26% (Bajracharya et al., 2011). In the Khumbu region, Nepal volume losses increased from an average of 320 mm/yr 1962-2002 to 790 mm/yr from 2002-2007, including area losses at the highest elevation on the glaciers (Bolch et al., 2011). The high elevation loss is also noted in Tibet on Naimona’nyi Glacier which has not retained accumulation even at 6000 meters. This indicates a lack of high altitude snow-ice gain (Kehrwald et al, 2008). The Dudh Koshi basin is the largest glacierized basin in Nepal. It has 278 glaciers of which 40, amounting to 70% of the area, are valley-type. Almost all the glaciers are retreating at rates of 10–59 m/year and the rate has accelerated after 2001 (Bajracharya and Mool, 2009). In the Tien Shan Range over 1700 glaciers were examined from 1970-2000 glacier area decreased by 13%, from 2000-2007 glacier area shrank by 4% a faster rate than from 1970-2000 (Narama et al, 2010).

An inventory of 308 glaciers in the Nam Co Basin, Tibet, noted an increased loss of area for the 2001-2009 period, 6% area loss (Bolch et al., 2010). Zhou et al (2009) looking at the Nianchu River basin southern Tibet found a 5% area loss. 1990-2005. Cao et al, (2010) completed an inventory of 244 glaciers in Lenglongling Range of Eastern Qilian Mountains from 1972 to 2007 and found a 23.5% loss in glacier area. The highest rate of 1% per year of area loss was identified from 2000 to 2007. In the Pumqu Basin, Tibet an inventory of 999 glacier from the 1974 & 1983 to 2001 indicated the loss of 9% of the glacier area and 10% of the glaciers disappeared (Jin et al, 2005).

Pan et al (2011) looking at the Gongga Mountains, China found a 11.3% area loss from 1966-2009. In the Wakhan Corridor, Pamir Range, Afghanistan 30 glaciers were examined over a 27 year period, 1976-2003, indicating that 28 of the glacier retreated with an average retreat of 294 m, just over 10 meters/yr (Haritashya, et al., 2009). The Karokoram is the one range where a mix of expansion and retreat is seen. The anomalous expansions are confined to the highest relief glaciers and appeared suddenly and sporadically (Hewitt, 2005). After decades of decline, glaciers in the highest parts of the central Karakoram expanded, advanced, and thickened in the late 1990s. Many of the largest glaciers in the Karakoram are still retreating including the Baltoro, Panmah and Biafo Glacier, albeit slowly (Hewitt, 2011).

A new means of assessing glacier volume is GRACE, which cannot look at specific changes of individual glaciers or watersheds. In the high mountains of Central Asia GRACE imagery found mass losses of -264 mm/a for the 2003-2009 period (Matsuo and Heki, 2010). This result is in relative agreement with the other satellite image assessments, but is at odds with the recent global assessment from GRACE, that estimated Himalayan glacier losses at 10% of that found in the aforementioned examples for volume loss for the 2003-2010 period (Jacobs et al, 2012). At this point the detailed glacier by glacier inventories inventories of thousands of glaciers are better validated and illustrate the widespread significant loss in glacier area and volume, though not all glaciers are retreating.

This page will continue to be updated as new inventory data is published and new individual glaciers are examined herein. Yao et al (2012) in an examination of Tibetan glaciers observed substantial losses of 7090 glaciers.

Glacier Retreat Kali Gandaki Headwaters, Nepal

The headwaters of the Kali Gandaki River is in northern Nepal. The basin is identified as having 1025 glaciers covering 2030 square kilometers by ICIMOD. The largest hydropower project is the 144 MW Kali Gandaki A project. The dam is located in Mirmi and the water is then sent through a 6 km long tunnel to Beltari. The Kali Gandaki River is fed by the summer monsoon rains and glacier melt. The glaciers in the range are summer accumulation type. The monsoon precipitation in summer (June- September) provides 80 % of annual precipitation.
Ageta and Higuchi (1984) noted that on summer accumulation type glaciers, accumulation and ablation occur simultaneously in summer. The result is that glacier retreat does not impact streamflow as much, as in other glaciated alpine regions. This post will look at several glaciers north of the highest section of the Himalaya. The Kali Gandaki River passes between the 8000 meter peaks of Annapurna and Dhalaguri. North of these peaks the climate is drier and colder as the peaks act as a barrier to the incursion of warmer monsoonal air masses. The glaciers examined range in altitude from 6000 m to 5500 m. These are cold glaciers where the bulk of the glacier ice is below freezing. The cold based summer accumulation type glacier at the headwaters of the Kali Gandaki are quite susceptible to warming, because of the low elevation and their dependence on frequent summer snowfall events to keep the albedo of the glacier surface high. In the glaciers examined here a point of concern is the extent of the surface drainage systems. Cold-based glaciers move slower and have fewer crevasses as a result. In addition meltwater does not penetrate into the cold glacier ice. Therefore, meltwater tends to drain along the surface and the persistence of meltwater drainage is evident in the formation of channels. If the majority of a cold type glacier has these streams, this indicates a limited accumulation area, which will then lead to glacier retreat. An examination of each of the three glaciers below indicates that the extent of the meltwater channels is unusually large. The meltwater channels are indicated with red arrows. The images are from late October 2009 and in some cases new snow has already covered some of the stream channels which in two cases nearly reach the top of the glacier. This is not an equilibrium situation where meltwater channels cover more than 70% of an alpine glacier. this is an indication of an expanding melt area on these glaciers. A comparison of the middle glacier with a 2000 Landsat image indicates 200 meters of retreat in the last decade. Notice the lake that is at the terminus in 2000 below is now 250 meters from the terminus in the image. above. These glaciers are small compared to the large Himalayan glaciers like Khumbu, Imja or Gangotri, but have the same response to climate, significant retreat.

Menlung Glacier Retreat, Tibet Glacier Moraine Dammed Lake Expansion

Menlung Glacier is one valley north of the Tibetan border with Nepal and on the south side of Menlungste Peak. Menlung Glacier has a glacier lake at its terminus that is dammed by the glaciers moraine (27.95 N, 86.45 E). The glacier began to withdraw from the moraine and the lake form after the 1951 expedition to the area. The glacier lake is at 5050 meters, the glacier descends from 7000 meters with the snowline recently around 5500 meters. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency has a side by side 1996 and 2007 satellite imagery that indicates the Menlung Glacier Lake developing in 1996 that still has remnant ice masses in it, that are gone by 2007. In Landsat imagery from 1992 the lake is still developing from a system of supraglacial lakes. Turning to better imagery available to the public in Google Earth in 2005 the lake has a contiguous area of with a length of 1100 meters and width of 700 meters (top). The lake rapidly expanded to a length of 1900 meters by 2009. The glacier retreat is 500 meters, the other 300 meters of expansion is a continued growth at the moraine end of the lake as ice cored moraine continues to melt (bottom). The lake is now substantial and still growing rapidly, with the rapidly melting terminus (black arrow). A look at the glacier surface indicates a large stream on the surface of the glacier that extends 2000 meters up glacier from the terminus (green arrow). This type of feature can only form on stagnant ice, otherwise movement generating crevasses would give a path for the stream to drain to the glacier bottom as is typical. The snowline in this 2009 image is at the blue arrow. . The retreat and lake expansion parallels that seen at Theri Kang and Imja Glacier.