A significant rise in temperature has been noticed over the Western Himalayas in recent decades. The rate is even higher than the average global warming rate.
The rising temperatures observed at a rate 1.5 degrees Celsius, especially over the Hindu Kush side of the Himalayas, will also face severe depletion in the glacial area cover, noted a team of meteorologists participating in the five-day ‘Science and Training workshop: Climate Change over the High Mountains of Asia’, organised at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) on Monday.
This comes at a time when the latest assessment by Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on Monday, has once again reiterated on the need for collective measures so that this warming trend, expected to hit 1.5 degrees Celcius between 2030 and 2050, can be addressed.
“While there are no significant rainfall variations observed over Western Himalayas, the temperatures have been rising over this region during the recent years,” noted Hemant Borgaonkar, an expert in Dendroclimatic studies and former scientist at IITM.
Glaciers and snow cover over the Himalayan ranges holds key in irrigation, drinking water and other needs for lakhs of people living in the mountain ranges and along the foothills of these ranges.
The impact of global warming at higher altitudes (elevation over 3,000 metres above mean sea level) is more in comparison to plains in the neighbouring areas, suggested R Krishnan, senior IITM scientist.
He said, “Higher altitude range along the Western Himalayas is found to be warming at a faster rate than plains closeby.”
While Antarctic and Arctic poles of the earth are crucial, the Himalayas are the third pole and play a vital role in regulating climate, particularly the Southwest monsoon, over Asia. “During 1960-2013, the glacial area loss has been 13 per cent of the total area and this glacial retreat is creating more lakes in the downstream areas,” said M Ravichandran, director, National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa.
Arun Shrestha from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMD), Nepal, concurred Ravichandran’s views. According to Shrestha, the rate of glacial melt will range between 20 to 55 per cent by 2050.
“The glacial melt remains the most crucial for irrigation purposes over the Indus river basin than for those living along the Bramhaputra or Ganga river basins, which anyways benefit from the southwest monsoon,” said Shrestha.
Air pollution, especially contributed by the black carbon, is yet another worry of the world’s tallest mountain ranges.
“Studies indicate that the highest amounts of black carbon is emanating from the Indo-Gangetic plains, located at the Himalayan foothills, and this is a big reason to worry,” noted SK Sateesh, Chairman, Divecha Centre at Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bengaluru.
Referring to the IPCC assessment report, which was released on Monday, Ravi Nanjundiah, Director, IITM said, “Climate change is here and we all need to accept it. Though we cannot prevent the extremes or eventualities linked to climate change, but we can stay prepared.”
He was addressing at the inaugural session of the workshop attended by 48 participants, including PhD scholars, experts, professionals and climate scientists, including some international participants.