ISRO Reports Alarming Expansion of Glacial Lakes in Himalayas, Increasing Risk of Devastating Floods

ISRO report reveals 676 glacial lakes in the Himalayas have significantly expanded since 1984, increasing GLOF risks due to climate change. Urgent action needed to monitor, assess, and mitigate these threats.

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Rafia Tasleem
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ISRO Reports Alarming Expansion of Glacial Lakes in Himalayas, Increasing Risk of Devastating Floods

ISRO Reports Alarming Expansion of Glacial Lakes in Himalayas, Increasing Risk of Devastating Floods

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has released a report revealing that 676 glacial lakes in the Himalayas, including 130 in India, have significantly expanded since 1984. This expansion increases the risk of devastating Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) due to climate change.

According to the ISRO analysis, of the 2,431 glacial lakes larger than 10 hectares identified in the Himalayas during a 2016-17 satellite survey, 676 have notably expanded over the past four decades. The majority of these expanding lakes, 601 or 89%, have more than doubled in size. An additional 10 lakes have grown between 1.5 to 2 times their original size, while 65 have expanded by 1.5 times since 1984.

The report highlights the Ghepang Ghat glacial lake in Himachal Pradesh, India, as a striking example of this rapid expansion. Satellite imagery shows that the lake has increased in size by 178%, from 36.49 hectares in 1989 to 101.30 hectares in 2022, at an alarming rate of 1.96 hectares per year.

Why this matters: The expansion of glacial lakes in the Himalayas due to accelerated melting of glaciers poses a significant threat to downstream communities. Glacial Lake Outburst Floods can have devastating consequences, making it crucial to monitor and understand these changes to assess risks and develop climate change adaptation strategies.

ISRO scientists emphasize the critical role of satellite remote sensing technology in monitoring and studying the long-term changes in glacial lakes. "Monitoring and studying the occurrence and expansion of glacial lakes is crucial for understanding glacier retreat rates, assessing GLOF risks, and gaining insights into climate change impacts," stated an ISRO representative.

The expanding glacial lakes are located across the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra river basins, with 65, 7, and 58 lakes situated in each basin within India, respectively. The majority of these lakes, 314, are found between 4,000 to 5,000 meters in altitude, while another 296 are located above 5,000 meters.

The ISRO report underscores the urgent need for attention and action to address the potential risks associated with the rapid expansion of glacial lakes in the Himalayas. It calls for the development of comprehensive monitoring systems, risk assessment frameworks, and disaster management plans to mitigate

Key Takeaways

  • ISRO report: 676 glacial lakes in Himalayas expanded since 1984, increasing GLOF risks.
  • Ghepang Ghat lake in India grew 178% from 1989 to 2022, at 1.96 hectares/year.
  • Expanding lakes located across Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra basins, mostly at 4,000-5,000m.
  • Satellite remote sensing crucial for monitoring glacial lake changes and climate impacts.
  • Urgent need for comprehensive monitoring, risk assessment, and disaster management plans.