The Himalayan Cryosphere: A Critical Assessment and Evaluation of Glacial Melt Fraction in the Bhagirathi Basin (2017)

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The cryosphere constitutes an important subset of the hydrosphere. The Himalayan cryosphere is a significant contributor to the hydrological budget of a large river system such as the Ganges. Basic data on the cryosphere in the Himalaya is inadequate and also has large uncertainties. The data on glacial melt component in the Himalayan rivers of India also shows high variability. The Gangotri glacier which constitutes nearly a fifth of the glacierized area of the Bhagirathi basin represents one of the fastest receding, large valley glaciers in the region which has been surveyed and monitored for over sixty years. The availability of measurement over a long period and relatively small glacier-fed basin for the Bhagirathi river provides suitable constraints for the measurement of the glacial melt fraction in a Himalayan river. Pre- and post-monsoon samples reveal a decreasing trend of depletion of d18O in the river water from glacier snout (Gaumukh) to the confluence of the Bhagirathi river with the Alaknanda river near Devprayag. Calculations of existing glacial melt fraction (~30% at Rishikesh) are not consistent with the reported glacial thinning rates. It is contended that the choice of unsuitable end-members in the three component mixing model causes the overestimation of glacial melt component in the river discharge. Careful selection of end members provides results (~11% at Devprayag) that are consistent with the expected thinning rates.
Year: 2017
Language: English
In: Geoscience Frontiers, 8 (1): 107-115 p.

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 Record created 2017-06-01, last modified 2017-06-01