Study Shows Glacial Lakes Likely to Form in Ladakh

  • 31 Jul 2023

A recent study reveals that the Parkachik Glacier in Ladakh is experiencing rapid ice melt, leading to the potential formation of three glacial lakes.

Key Points

  • Higher Retreat Rate in Recent Years: Field observations through day-to-day monitoring revealed an even higher retreat rate than observed in satellite imaging.
  • Between 2015 and 2021, the glacier retreated at an alarming average rate of 20.5 meters per year.
  • Reasons for Rapid Melting: Firstly, global warming and increasing temperatures in the region contribute to glacial melt.
  • Secondly, the Parkachik Glacier is located at a lower altitude compared to other glaciers in the Zanskar region, making it more susceptible to melting.
  • Ablation and Accumulation Concerns: The study also investigated ablation and accumulation in the glacier.
  • Ablation refers to melting in the glacier's lower half, while accumulation pertains to the top of the glacier, where snow accumulates.
  • The research found significant changes in 'surface ice velocity,' with a 28% reduction in the lower ablation zone from 1999 to 2020-21.
  • Risk of Proglacial Lakes Formation: Based on the models used in the study, the researchers predict the likely formation of three proglacial lakes near the glacier. This poses two major problems.
  • Firstly, there is a possibility of glacial lake outbursts if the volume of water in these lakes is substantial.
  • Secondly, the retreat of the glacier threatens a valuable water resource for Ladakh, as the region heavily relies on glacial melt for its water supply.
  • Impact on Water Supply: The study highlights that glacial meltwater is crucial for millions of people in Asia, with around three billion people depending on glaciers for their water supply.
  • Ladakh, in particular, is highly dependent on glacial meltwater, making the retreat of the Parkachik Glacier a significant concern for water scarcity in the region.