Need more studies to know the impact of climate change on Himalayas: Rajeevan

T V Jayan Mandi (Himachal) | Updated on April 19, 2019 Published on April 19, 2019

Though the Himalayas is one of the most sensitive climate change hotspots, after the Arctic, there is very little observational data to ascertain how the climate change is impacting the youngest mountain range in the world, said M Rajeevan, Ministry of Earth Sciences Secretary on Thursday.

“While the global average temperature went up by 0.7 degree Celsius in the last century, the average increase in temperature was still higher in the Himalayas, around 1 degree Celsius, making the region one among the worst affected by climate change. Similarly, while there was a plateau in global warming between 1998 and 2014, giving some credence to climate change naysayers, the the adverse effects were still visible in the Himalayas, Rajeevan said while inaugurating an international conference on impact of climate change and extreme weather events in the Himalayan region at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi. According to him, the Himalayan region was still warming up during this period.

Global warming

“Global warming is no longer a myth. It can have profound influence in this fragile region, which is critical for energy, food and water security of the country,” he said adding that one of the visible signs of global warming in the Himalayan region is the increase in average nighttime temperature,” he said.

That said, there are currently huge gaps in long-term observational data available from the region to help properly understand the adverse impacts in the region. Such data are valuable in forecasting a range of things including biodiversity loss, glacial meltdown, and trends in extreme weather events such as cloudburst or flash floods, Rajeevan said.

There are, for example, 15,000 glaciers in the Himalayas, earning it the sobriquet of Third Pole after the Arctic and the Antarctica. “Since 1970, the Himalayas has lost nearly 15 per cent of glaciers and even in the best case scenario, it would lose another 15 to 20 per cent glaciers by 2100,” he said indicating that there is need to collect data from the ground to record and analyse such drastic changes.

Weather radars

On its part, Rajeevan said the ministry is planning to focus more on the Himalayas for collecting observation data. Apart from increasing the number of seismic observatories in the region from the existing 150 in the coming years, it would install 10 weather radars in northern Himalayan States of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir in the current year itself. The first of such weather radars, each with a range of 70 to 80 kilometre, would be erected next month. These weather radars, costing Rs 4 crore each, would help in forecasting extreme weather events such as cloudburst, apart from improving meteorological understanding of the region, he said.

The event was organised with a view that being a premier academic and research institution situated in the Himalayas, IIT Mandi should take a lead such studies, said Ramesh P Singh, the main organiser of the study. “We still do not have a clear idea what are the drivers that are causing the melting of the Himalayas. It could be soot participles coming from the Indo-Gangetic plains or the dust participles coming from the faraway places like West Asia. We still do not know,” Singh, who is a visiting professor at the IIT Mandi, said.

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Published on April 19, 2019
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