Status Report on Chota Shigri Glacier

Himalayan Glaciology Technical Report No. 1 PDF Link

STATUS REPORT ON CHHOTA SHIGRI GLACIER (HIMACHAL PRADESH)
Science and Engineering Research Council
Department of Science & Technology
Government of India

New Delhi

Edited by
AL. Ramanathan
School of Environmental Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi-110067.

Citation:
Ramanathan, AL. (2011). Status Report on Chhota Shigri Glacier (Himachal Pradesh),
Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, New Delhi.
Himalayan Glaciology Technical Report No.1,pp-88p.

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FOREWORD

Glaciers in the Indian Himalaya are the key indicators of regional climate change and water resource to the major rivers like Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra. Glaciers also contribute to the regional hydrology towards the development and sustainability of downstream population and mountain ecosystems. The Chhota Shigri glacier is one of the ideal glaciers for long-term monitoring, as index or benchmark glacier,
located in the Chandra river basin on the northern ridge of Pir Pinjal range east of Rothang Pass in the Lahul valley of the Himachal Pradesh.

Glaciological expeditions to the Chhota Shigri glacier are being undertaken since 1962 by the Geological Survey of India. However, multidisciplinary expeditions during 1985-88, 2003-07 and individual studies supported by the Department of Science and technology and other organizations could generate valuable database to understand the dynamics of this glacier. The present report synthesizes the various observational studies available form the Chhota Shigri Glacier on meteorological and morphological features, glacier dynamics, hydrology, etc using multi-dimensional observational techniques including field and laboratory based as well as remote sensing. Available observations by different organizations and methodologies on this glacier snout position, which is the simplest indicator of climatic fluctuations,
indicate a retreating trend with varied magnitudes. Further, the annual mass balance, energy budget, paleo glaciation and other glaciological processes could not quantify the specific factors driving the retreat and advance of this glacier.

I am confident that the renewed interest in Glaciological research to quantify the impact of climate change and global warming has provided great opportunity to take up intensive observational and modeling studies to provide scientific basis for adoption and mitigation of the impact of climate change in particular
sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem as part of national action plan on climate change. We are grateful to Prof AL. Ramanthan for preparing this synthesis report and the Chairman and members of the Expert Committee on ‘Integrated Program on Dynamics of the Glaciers in the Himalaya’ for conceptualization and guiding the preparation of this report. Also, thankful to Dr Rasik Ravindra, Shri C.V. Sangewar, Dr D. Srivastava, Shri D.R. Sikka, Dr Naveen Juyal and Dr P. Sanjeeva Rao for critical review of the manuscript.

(T RAMASAMI)

Tel. : 011-26510068, 011-26511439 Fax : 0091-11-26863847, 0091-11-26862418 E-mail : dstsec@nic.in
Preface

The lofty Himalayan ranges have some of the highest and biggest mountain glaciers in the world and constitute an important source of fresh water for north Indian perennial rivers and water reservoirs. In order to sustain the rich biodiversity in the Himalayan region and to avoid a water crisis looming over the nation owing to a changing climate, study of snow and glaciers is crucial for the effective management of the mountain water resources, to satisfy the growing demands of a rapidly developing nation.

Glaciological studies are multidisciplinary in nature and encompass geological, hydrological, meteorological, geophysical, remote sensing and modeling applications. Apart from helping us to unravel the past climate, understanding the dynamics of Himalayan glaciers have their applicability in the environmental appraisal and mitigation of hazards like avalanches, lake outbursts, etc. in high altitude regions of the Himalaya.

Recently glacier studies have attracted the attention of the scientific community and public at large and several budding researchers are desirous of pursuing glacier research. There is, however, a lack of readily available compilations that report on various aspects of research carried out on any particular glacier. The purpose of this document is to provide information related to Chhota Shigri glacier collected from multiple sources. It also strives to bridge the gap between research done in the past and the ongoing research in the Himalaya in general and Chhota Shigri in particular allowing the reader to make informed judgments and also to address problems that need scientific answers in this field of applied research. Glaciologists around the world can have a glimpse of various kinds of scientific work that has been carried
out on this representative glacier and can in turn suggest areas and problems that need to be addressed in the future.

This document contains five sections encompassing major aspects of basic geographical and geological information, glacier dynamics, chemical and hydrological investigations, palynological and remote sensing aspects on Chhota Shigri glacier. Each section gives a vivid picture of various approaches and problems. The first chapter introduces Himalayan glaciers in general and Chhota Shigri Glacier in detail including the climate, geology, etc. while the second chapter deals with various aspects of glacier dynamics i.e. snout fluctuation, mass balance, surface velocity, energy balance, etc. on which significant research has been undertaken till date. The third chapter covers various aspects of snow, ice and meltwater chemistry as well as radio and stable isotopic investigations. Hydrological Investigations viz, discharge and sediment load of the meltwater stream forms the fourth chapter. The final
chapter is a compilation of miscellaneous research including palynological, remote sensing, geophysical investigation and mineral prospecting.

This document is expected to be a useful reference on glacier research to researchers in universities, institutes, NGO’s and in public and government sectors. I hope that it is widely circulated and used by national and international researchers, students and policy makers.

AL. Ramanathan
Editor

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Acknowledgement

The editor is grateful to Science and Engineering Research Council, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, for having funded the compilation of this report for publication through a short-term grant. In particular, we would like to convey our sincere thanks to Dr. M. Prithviraj, Scientist ‘F’ and Dr P. Sanjeeva Rao, Scientist ‘G’ for their constant support and encouragement throughout this report compilation and publication. Director, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, Director, Glaciology Division, Geological Survey of India, Lucknow and Director, National Institute of Hydrology, Rookee are acknowledged for granting access to their libraries for collecting material for publishing this document.

Late Dr. Surendar Kumar, Scientist, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun had
co-ordinated the multidisciplinary Chhota Shigri Glacier Expeditions between 1986 and
1989, in which various institutions like Survey of India, Geological Survey of India, National
Institute of Hydrology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Physical Research Laboratory and
Space Application Centre (ISRO), Defense Terrain Research Laboratory, etc. participated
and generated a large volume of data in a short time.

Dr. D. P. Dobhal of WIHG, Dehradun, Dr. K. Dhanapal, Coimbatore gave access to their
unpublished Ph.D. thesis and other material for this compilation. Several papers in reviewed
journals and conference proceedings have al so been accessed for this compilation.

We thank the various institutions and scientists who have studied Chhota Shigri glacier over
the last 25 years either individually or as part of Scientific Expeditions. The authors are very
grateful to the three referees viz. Dr. D.R. Sikka, Ex-Director, IITM, Dr. R.K. Midha, Ex-
Advisor, DST, Dr. C.V. Sangewar, Ex-Director, Glaciology Division, GSI and Dr. Rasik
Ravindra, Director NCAOR and Chairman, Expert committee on Dynamics of Himalayan
Glaciers who painstakingly went through the draft report and gave their valuable inputs
which have considerably improved the quality of this report.

Finally, I extend my hearty thanks to Dr. P.G. Jose, Dr. Parmanand Sharma, Dr. Anurag
Linda, Dr. Shruti, Mr. Mohd. Farooq Azam and Mr. Virendra Bahadur Singh who helped in
preparing this document.

AL. RAMANATHAN

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Executive Summary

The majestic Himalaya with its snow clad peaks and over 9000 glaciers is a major source of
fresh water for the Himalayan rivers and one of the largest reserves of snow and ice outside
Polar Regions. The glaciers in Indian Himalaya are yet to be substantially explored for their
resource and hazard potentials. Few glaciers in Indian Himalayas have been monitored for
more than ten years. Chhota Shigri glacier is one of the representative glaciers that have been
studied for a relatively longer period. The studies carried out so far in various disciplines on
this glacier are not enough to come to a definite understanding of its health. Hence we need
more comprehensive and long term monitoring to understand the glacier dynamics and its
response to local and regional climate. This document aims to compile the work carried out in
the form of a status report to highlight not only what has been accomplished, but also to
inspire further discussion on what need to be done to better understand climate-glacier-
bedrock interactions and the factors controlling these. The status report contains six sections
encompassing major aspects of basic geographical and geological information, glacier
dynamics, chemical and hydrological investigations as well as polynological,
geological/geophysical and remote sensing investigations on Chhota Shigri glacier.

In chapter 1, basic information pertaining to Chhota Shigri glacier is discussed.
Geographicaly, Chhota-Shigri glacier is located between 32o o o o
11’-32 17’ N and 77 29’-77
33’ E, in the Chandra river basin on the northern ridge of Pir Panjal range in the Lahaul- Spiti
valley of Himachal Pradesh, India. The glacier catchment is dominated by gneiss, with traces
of sulphites and deposits of stibnite. The glacier has clearly demarcated ablation and
accumulation zones and various erosional and depositional glacier morphological features
like moraines, crevasses, glacier till, cirques, glacier tables and glacier lakes etc. Climatic
conditions around this glacier are typical of monsoon-arid transition zone, where both Asian
summer monsoon and mid-latitude Westerlies influence the climate regime. The annual
precipitation varies between 150 and 200cm. and wind velocities range from 5 to 15kmh-1.

Chapter 2 deals with glacier dynamics i.e., snout fluctuation, mass balance, surface velocity
and energy balance. The snout retreat of this glacier is well documented from 1962 onwards,
although there is wide variability in retreat rates reported by different sources. Mass balance
by Glaciological method also shows negative mass balance of about 0.2m water equivalent
during 1986 to 1989 and about 1.0m water equivalent during 2002 to 2009 in this glacier.
Equilibrium Line Altitude and Accumulation Area Ratio indicate the overall negative mass
balance trend. Ice flow velocities on the glacier surface have remained relatively constant all
through the observation period, with the mean annual surface velocity ranging from about 30
-1
to 40myr .

Chapter 3 deals with chemical investigations done on Chhota Shigri glacier and its melt-
waters. Chemical investigation of melt-water shows that dominant cation in this basin is
calcium followed by magnesium and dominant anion is bicarbonate followed by sulphate. It
also indicates dominance of carbonate weathering over silicate weathering. The age of snout
ice was calculated as 250 years while that of average meltwater as 80 years by analyzing
radioisotopic composition, while stable isotopic analysis gave the rate of snow accumulation
on this glacier to be 520 kgm-2yr-1.

Glacier hydrology is the subject matter covered in Chapter 4, giving insight into discharge
and sediment load in Chhota Shigri glacier melt-waters. Discharges measured intermittently
show significant variation with daily mean discharges ranging from 6 to 13m3s-1. Sediment

load closely follows the discharge variations.

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Chapter 5 deals with miscellaneous research not covered in the previous chapters, such as
palynological, remote sensing and geophysical investigations as well as mineral prospecting
studies on the moraines. Palynological studies revealed the influence of upthermic winds in
the catchment. A good relationship was found between the satellite observations and the mass
balances measured on the field. Geophysical investigations shed light into relation between
maximum ice thickness and the maximum strain rate, surface ice velocity and melting rates
as well as the bed rock topography and surface topography.

The monitoring of Chhota Shigri glacier was initiated through the multi-institutional
expeditions during 1986-1989 sponsored by Department of Science and Technology,
Government of India and renewed from 2002 through the annual mass balance monitoring of
the glacier by researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi through
collaborative research. Mass balance of a glacier depends on various climatic factors like
precipitation, mean summer temperature, insolation, albedo, etc. and physical factors like
sliding rate, tectonism, etc. Thus there is a need to strengthen the ongoing research with
inputs from various disciplines and involvement of specialists from diverse fields of research.
A multi-disciplinary approach with participation from a broad spectrum of specializations
like glaciological modeling, geochronology, isotope- and bio-geochemistry, geophysics,
meteorology, hydrology, etc. apart from glaciology and glacial geology appears to be the key
to further a holistic understanding of climate-glacier interactions not only in Chhota Shigri
glacier but also in the Himalayan region.

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List of Institutions involved

in studies of Chhota Shigri Glacier

1. Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow

2. Central Water Commission, New Delhi

3. Defense Terrain Research Laboratory, Delhi

4. Geological Survey of India , Lucknow

5. India Meteorological Department, New Delhi

6. Institute of Geology & Mines, Shimla

7. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

8. National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee

9. Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad

10. Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad

11. Survey of India, Dehradun

12. Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun

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List of Figures

Figure 1.1 Distribution of Glaciers in Himalaya

Figure 1.2 Location map of Chhota Shigri glacier

Figure 1.3 Geomorphological features of Chhota Shigri glacier

Figure 1.4 Lateral moraine of Chhota Shigri glacier

Figure 1.5 Medial moraine on Chhota Shigri glacier

Figure 1.6 Ablation zone of Chhota Shigri glacier

Figure 1.7 Snout of Chhota Shigri glacier

Figure 1.8 Crevasse on Chhota Shigri glacier

Figure 1.9 a) Diurnal variation of temperature b) Diurnal variation of Relative Humidity
c) Albedo of the glacier surface d) Average hourly values of solar energy e)
wind rose at glacier camp in 1987 on Chhota Shigri glacier

Figure 1.10 a) Half hourly variation of temperature b) Half hourly variation of humidity
c) Half hourly variation of total solar flux observed in the lower ablation zone
of the Chhota Shigri glacier in 2003

Figure 1.11 a) Half-hourly variation of temperature b) 15 minute variation of temperature
c) Half-hourly variation of relative humidity d) Fifteen minute variation of
relative humidity at glacier surface (Upper ablation zone, 4970m) of the
Chhota Shigri glacier in 2009

Figure 1.12 Geological map of the Chhota Shigri Glacier including surrounding area

Figure 2.1 Chhota Shigri glacier with different series of morainic deposits

Figure 2.2 Snout positions in 1984 and 1989 demarcated against the position in 1962

Figure 2.3 The fluctuation of the Chhota Shigri snout mapped between 1984 and 1989

Figure 2.4 Distribution of stakes on the Chhota Shigri Glacier

Figure 2.5 Numbering of bamboo segments used on the Chhota Shigri Glacier

Figure 2.6 Diagram of the portable steam driven drill

Figure 2.7 Mass balance of Chhota Shigri glacier from 2002 to 2010

Figure 4.1 Discharge station established on Chhota Shigri meltwater stream,1986-88

Figure 4.2 Discharge station re-installed on Chhota Shigri meltwater stream in 2009

Figure 4.3 Morning, afternoon and evening discharge in Chhota Shigri meltwater stream,
2002-2008

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Figure 4.4 Daily average discharge hydrograph (m /s) for 2010

Figure 4.5 Variations of Discharge and Mass Balance 2003-2008

Figure 4.6 Variation of Discharge and Sediment load in August-September 1989

Figure 4.7 Suspended sediment concentration in Chhota Shigri meltwater, 2010

Figure 5.1 Planimetric control in Chhota Shigri glacier area during 1987, showing
locations of control points (CP) and glacier points (GP)

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CONTENTS

Page No.

Foreword i
Preface ii
Acknowledgement iii
Executive Summary iv – v
List of Institutions involved in studies of Chhota Shigri Glacier vi
List of Tables vii
List of Figures viii-ix

1. Introduction 1 – 24
1.1 Glacier
1.1.1 The Himalaya
1.1.2 Fresh Water Resources in the Indian Himalaya
1.1.3 Glacier Distribution in the Himalaya
1.2 Chhota Shigri
1.2.1 Location
1.2.2 Glacier Geometry & Morphology
1.2.3 Climate
1.2.4 Geology
1.2.5 Chhota Shigri, a Representative Glacier in Indian Himalaya
Highlights

2. Glacier Dynamics 25 – 46
2.1 Snout Fluctuation
2.1.1 History of Snout Measurements of the Chhota Shigri Glacier
2.1.2 Geomorphological Evidence of Palaeo-fluctuations of the Snout
2.2 Glacier Mass Balance
2.2.1 Different Methodologies
2.2.2 Status of Mass Balance Studies in the Indian Himalaya
2.2.3 Mass Balance Studies in Chhota Shigri Glacier
2.3 ELA (Equilibrium Line Altitude) & AAR (Accumulation Area Ratio)
2.4 Surface Velocity
2.5 Energy Balance
Highlights

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3. Chemical Investigations 47 – 55
3.1 Snow & Ice Chemistry
3.2 Meltwater Chemistry
3.3 Radio and Stable Isotopic Investigations
3.4 Highlights

4. Hydrological Investigations 56– 66
4.1 Discharge Monitoring
4.2 Discharge – Mass Balance Relationship
4.3 Sediment Load
Highlights

5. Miscellaneous Research 66 – 72
5.1 Palynological Studies
5.2 Spectral Reflectance Studies
5.3 Geophysical Investigations
5.4 Geodetic Investigations
5.5 Investigations for Base Metal Minerals
Highlights

6. Summary and Conclusions 73 – 78
6.1 Current Status of Research on Chhota Shigri
6.2 Limitations and gaps
6.3 Prospects for Future Research

References 79 – 88

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1. Introduction

The major river systems of the world originate in the mountainous regions. It has been

reported that 80% of the fresh water supply on planet earth comes from mountains (Barry et

al., 1998, Valdiya, 1998), which cover about 20% of land area and are inhabited by 10% of

the world’s population. Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) including Himalaya, Hindu Kush and

Karakoram is the biggest mountain range on earth, and is the third largest ice mass after
Arctic/Greenland and Antarctic regions. HKH covers 59 x 103 2
km of glaciated area out of a

3 2
world total of 540 x 10 km (Dyurgerov and Meier, 1997, 2005) mountain glaciers. This

region is one of the most populated areas on earth and is potentially one of the most critical

parts of the world while considering the social and economical impacts of glacier shrinkages

(Barnett et al., 2005).

1.1 Glacier

The word glacier comes from Latin glacies meaning ice. Meier (1964) defines glacier as “a

body of ice originating on land by the re-crystallization of snow or other form of solid

precipitation and showing evidence of past and present flow”. According to Knight (1999),

glacier is “a huge mass of ice slowly flowing over a land mass, formed from compacted snow

in an area where snow accumulation exceeds melting and sublimation”. Many authors define

glacier as a large mass of ice which persists throughout the year, and moves slowly down-

slope by its own weight. Glaciers are formed in areas where the winter snow doesn’t have a

chance to melt, and consecutive snowfalls accumulate and compress into ice. A glacier forms

where the mass accumulation of snow and ice exceeds ablation over many years. Glacier ice

is the largest reservoir of fresh water on earth. Glaciers are categorised in many ways on the

basis of their morphology, thermal characteristics and behaviour. There are two common

types of glaciers: alpine or mountain glaciers and ice sheets or continental glaciers. Alpine

glaciers, those confined to mountain valleys are also called valley glaciers, while continental
glaciers cover large tracts of land greater than 50,000km2 (Keller, 1999). Most of the

Himalayan glaciers are valley type glaciers.

1.1.1 The Himalaya

The Himalaya is the largest mountain range of the HKH region. It separates India along its

north central and north eastern frontier from China (Tibet) and extends between latitude

0 ’ 0 ’ 0 ’ 0 ’
26 20 and 35 40 N and longitudes 74 50 and 95 40 E (Ives and Messerli, 1989). In Indian

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Himalaya, about 1400 km3 of snow and ice is locked up (Valdiya, 1998) and covers an area of

3 2
38×10 km accounting for 17% of the mountain area as compared to 2.2% in the Swiss Alps

(Agarwal and Narain, 1991). A recent inventory compiled by the Geological Survey of India

has revealed the existence of 9,575 glaciers in the Indian administered part of the Himalaya

comprising the territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim

and Arunachal Pradesh (Sangewar and Shukla, 2009). The total glacier cover within these
states is 37.466 x 103 2
km (Raina and Srivastava, 2008). According to Vohra (1996), the

Himalaya is the tallest water tower and largest store house of snow and ice outside the polar

region. It contains enormous water reservoirs of perennial snow and ice at the highest

elevations.

1.1.2 Fresh Water Resources in the Indian Himalaya

The global demand for fresh water has increased four-fold since 1940 due to growing

population, intensifying agriculture, increasing urbanization and industrialization. In the

Indian subcontinent, snow and glaciers of the Hindu-Kush Himalayas provide a major portion

of the dry season flows of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. There is a high

variability in precipitation across the Himalaya and even different ranges in the North

Western Himalaya receive different amounts of snowfall ranging from about 100 to >1600cm

(Bhutiyani et al., 2009). In many regions of the world, the distribution of water in rivers is

seasonal; runoff process occurs only in rainy seasons and rest of the year, rivers remain dry.

In these dry seasons, mountain glaciers are the only source of water for rivers. Runoff

generated from snow melt and glacier melt from Indian Himalaya is 5% of the total rain fall

of the country (Upadhyay, 1995; Bahadur, 1988). This shows that snow and glacier melt are

not major sources, but good distributors of fresh water throughout the year. The annual water

availability from the Himalayan region is listed below (Table 1.1).

Table 1.1 Annual water availability from Himalayan region to India (Upadhyay, 1995)

3
Source Volume of water (km )

Glacier melt 40

Seasonal snow melt 160

Rain fall 470

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Glaciers temporarily delay the melt water runoff due to internal storage and essentially

contribute to the runoff during dry periods and make the flow perennial. Therefore glacial

runoff is essential to the regional water balance in the mountainous regions because glacier

mass change is important to regional water supplies (Bezinge, 1979; Fountain and Tangborn,

1985). The variation of coefficient of runoff as a function of the percentage of glacier cover

of a catchment basin indicates the impact of glaciers on the runoff. This storage can reduce

peak runoff during periods of intensive melt and rain. Alternatively, the stored water can be

catastrophically released from hidden reservoirs of the glaciers. Hence, monitoring glacier

ablation pattern is crucial for planning and management of water resources.

In recent years, glacier studies in India are gaining attention in the context of climate change

and especially in view of the existing and upcoming small and large scale hydro-

power/irrigation projects based on Himalayan water reserves. This has given an imperative to

monitor representative glaciers from different hydroclimatic regimes across the Himalaya.

1.1.3 Glacier Distribution in the Himalaya

The Himalaya and Trans-Himalaya comprise about 50% area of all glaciers outside of the

polar region (Vohra, 1996). The glaciers in this mountain belt are unique in their location, as

being nearest to Tropic of Cancer they receive more heat than Arctic and Antarctic or other

temperate glaciers (Figure 1.1). Therefore, the Himalaya provides a unique opportunity to

study the mass balance and snout fluctuations of the mountain glaciers, which can be

modelled for different kinds of climatic regimes. Investigations through expeditions and

mapping to Chhota Shigri, Patsio and Samudra Tapu glaciers in Chenab basin, Parbati glacier
in Parbati basin and Shaune Garang glacier in Baspa basin has reported an overall

deglaciation of 21% from 1962 to 2001 (Kulkarni et al., 2007).

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Western Himalaya

Central Himalaya Eastern Himalaya

Figure 1.1 Distributions of Glaciers in Himalaya (Modified after Mayewski and Jeschke, 1979)

The Himalaya is a large mountain system, influencing the interaction of climate, hydrology

and environment. There are 9575 glaciers enclosed (Sangewar and Shukla, 2009) in the

Indian part of Himalaya and their distribution is controlled by altitude, orientation, slope and

climatic zone in which they fall. The Himalaya can be classified in three zones depending on

the amount of monsoon precipitation and the snowfall they receive. The well known

classification of the Himalaya (Vohra, 1996) is as follows:

1. Dominant monsoon precipitation areas of Eastern and Central Himalaya.

2. Equal to sub-equal monsoon and winter precipitation including areas of Ganga basin,

parts of Himachal Pradesh.

3. Dominant winter precipitation including areas of Ladakh, Spiti and Tibet.

Studies conducted by Ageta and Pokhral (1999), conclude that approximately 80% of the

mass balance inputs is contributed by the monsoonal precipitation in the Eastern Himalayas.

But in the Central Himalaya, they have observed that the monsoonal precipitation contributes

about 15% of the mass balance influx, whereas the rest can be attributed to the westerly

disturbances (Ageta et al., 2000). In Western Himalaya the mass balance characteristics are

largely controlled by winter accumulation. In this region, 85% of the influx is through winter

precipitation (Ageta et al., 2000).

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This study is focussed particularly on the Chhota Shigri glacier, Lahaul-Spiti valley, Western

Himalaya; representative of glaciers influenced by two major climatic systems i.e. the mid-

latitude westerlies and the Indian South-West summer monsoon. This region is still poorly

monitored due to difficulties in maintaining observational networks at high elevation.

Chandra River, an important source of fresh water in this region is fed by various glaciers,

one of which is Chhota Shigri glacier. Information available on mass balance, discharge and

chemistry of snow, ice and meltwater of Chhota Shigri glacier is sparse and inadequate and

needs to be substantiated by comprehensive scientific studies over the next few decades.

1.2 Chhota Shigri glacier

Chhota Shigri glacier is a valley-type compound glacier (GSI Inventory 2009: Identification

No. IN5Q21212159). The flow direction of the trunk glacier is from south to north. The

glacier is oriented roughly N-S in its ablation area, and has a variety of orientations in the
accumulation area (Figure 1.2). The slope of the glacier in the lower region is about 10o to

o o o
16 and in the higher elevations (head of the glacier) the slope is about 40 to 45 (Kumar and

Dobhal, 1997).

1.2.1 Location

Geographically Chhota Shigri glacier is located between 32o o o o
11’ – 32 17’ N and 77 29’-77

33’ E. It lies in the Chandra river basin on the northern ridge of Pir Panjal range in the

Lahaul-Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh, India. Table 1.2 gives a list of geographical and

topographical characteristics of Chhota Shigri glacier (Wagnon et al., 2007; Sangewar and

Shukla, 2009). Chhota Shigri glacier is fed by mainly two tributary glaciers from the east and

west, both of which originate in the vicinity of peaks located at about 6000m and 5500m

amsl. respectively. The location map of Chhota Shigri glacier is shown in Figure 1.2. To the

east of Chhota Shigri is the largest glacier of Himachal Pradesh, Bara Shigri, a 28 km long
and 131km2 glacier (Dutt, 1961; Berthier et al., 2007; Sangewar and Shukla, 2009).

Chhota Shigri valley extends 11 km from the Chandra river confluence up to Sara – Umga

Pass (4990m amsl) and the walled valley extends for 10 km. The lower 1km distance is over

the terrace of main Chandra river valley covered on the sides by lateral moraines 50m high.

The drainage area of the Chhota Shigri basin from the location of hydrological station on the
proglacial stream at 3900m amsl is 34.7km2, of which 47% is glaciated. The total glaciated

area is 16.3km2 2
while the Chhota Shigri glacier covers 15.7km (Wagnon et al., 2007).

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The main glacier is slightly crescentic with a westerly arch. It is fed by several tributary

glaciers, which are mostly transverse to sub-transverse type. The accumulation zone near

Sara Umga Pass is situated between two peaks of 5500m and 6500m amsl.

Table 1.2 Geographical and topographical characteristics of Chhota Shigri glacier

Sangewar and Shukla,
Characteristics Wagnon et al., 2007
2009

Latitude 32° 11’ N to 32° 17’N 32° 13’ 42” N

Longitude 77° 29’E to 77° 33’ E 77° 30’50” E

Max. Elevation 6263m amsl 6080 amsl

Snout position 4050m amsl 4060 amsl

2 2
Chhota Shigri glacier area 15.7km 15.01 km

Glacier length 9km 9.20km

Mean orientation North NW/N

The Chandra River valley is 8km wide at the top and 2km wide at the valley floor, while

Chhota Shigri valley varies from 0.5km near the snout to 2-3km at the accumulation zone

(Sharma, 2007). Constant fall of boulders and cobbles were observed all around the snout

region. The total length of glacier is 9km from snout to Sara Umga Pass. The present snout is

about 2.5km south of Chhota Dara. The Chhota Shigri glacier stream flows in a NW direction

and meets the Chandra River at right angle at about 2.5km downstream of the snout. The

Chandra River flows in E to W direction at the confluence.

6

———————– Page 20———————–

35

HIMACHAL PRADESH
N
CHHOTA SHIGRI GLACIER
33
30 HIMACHAL PRADESH

CHAMBA
32.5 LAHAUL AND SPITI
Chamba
kelong
25
KANGRA CHHOTA SHIGRI GLACIER
INDIA 32 Dharamsala KULLU

Mandi Kullu
20 Hamirpur KINNAUR
31.5 UNA HAMIRPUR
Una
MANDI Rekon Peo
BILASPUR
Bilaspur SHIMLA
31
15 Solan SHIMLA

SOLAN

Sirmaur
30.5
SIRMAUR
10

30 0Km 50Km 100Km

a) 70 75 80 85 90 95 b) 75.5 76 76.5 77 77.5 78 78.5 79

Chandra River

N

CHHOTA SHIGRI GLACIER

c) Source: NASA World Wind 1.4

Figure 1.2 (a, b and c) Location map of Chhota Shigri glacier.

7

———————– Page 21———————–

1.2.2 Glacier Geometry and Morphology

Chhota Shigri Glacier extends for about 9km (Kumar, 1991) from its snout to the

accumulation zone near Sara Umga Pass (4990m). The glacier is fed by converging mountain

glacier tributaries originating on the slopes of peaks that range in height from about 5500m to
6500m amsl (Dobhal et al., 1995). The average bed slope of the valley is about 12.5o

(Dobhal et al., 1995). The main glacier flows in a NW direction for about 4km in the

accumulation zone and then changes the direction to NNE near the equilibrium line. The

lowermost part of the glacier tongue for about 1km is covered by supraglacial moraines. The

glacial surface is uplifted by medial moraine which is depressed near the snout. This glacier

lies on the northern slopes of the main Pir Panjal Range east of Rohtang Pass, resting mainly

on Central Crystalline granites.

The diverse morphology of the glacier surface and its catchment area may strongly reflect the

impact of causative agents such as high temperature range in the development of these

specific geomorphological features during the mechanical weathering process under the

extreme range of temperature. This glacier reflects the remnants of a pre-glacial river valley

deepened by glacial or meltwater erosion (Chaujar, 1987). These weathered materials get

carried away to the downstream region with the melt water and get deposited as the debris

cover. A preliminary level investigation was conducted in the ablation seasons of 1986,

1987, 1988 and 1989 to study the morphology (Figure. 1.3) and glacier dynamics of Chhota

Shigri glacier (Chaujar, 1987, 1989, Dobhal et, al., 1995). Detailed topographic survey of the

glacier was carried out by SOI in 1986 assisted by scientists from WIHG and a high

resolution topographic map (1: 10,000) was prepared (Kumar et al., 1987). A resurvey of the

glacier topography at 1:10,000 scale is an immediate need to update the current areal extent

of the glacier and to understand prevailing glacier geometry.

Initially Chaujar (1987) classified this glacier into two fold, a) Active Zone-Landforms

produced by contemporary glacial processes b) Inactive Zone-Landforms in relict state due to

glacial recession. Active zone is further divided into two zones viz.(a) the ablation zone and

(b) the accumulation zone. Landforms in the active zone are moraines, crevasses, glacier till,

cirques, glacier tables and glacier lakes. Landforms in the inactive zone are lateral, ground and

end moraines.

8

———————– Page 22———————–

Major ridge line Cliff
Minor ridge line

Glacier boundary Mouline

Major ridge Snout

Minor ridge Glacial flow direction

Active slides
Drainage

Equlibrium line Cirque glacier

Major creaks/curve Glacier covered by
Minor creaks boulder and pebble

Horn Rock faces

Summit Snow field

Lateral moraine Crevasses

Medial moraine

Scanty vegitation

Till deposits

Rill wash

Active slide

Snow avalanche

Ice fall

Scree fall

Erate

Figure 1.3 Geomorphological features of Chhota Shigri glacier
(Chaujar, 1989; Dobhal, 1992)

9

———————– Page 23———————–

Based on various field expeditions carried out in this glacier valley, well-developed

morphologic zones were identified like accumulation zone, ablation zone, snout, etc. The

accumulation zone enclosed by high peaks forms an elongated cirque. The upper part

of the zone is slightly steep. The glacier coming down from the upper reaches is

dislodging the load on the western side of the glacier, hence resulting in a smooth but

large bend in the glacier valley around the equilibrium line (Dobhal et al, 1995). The

maximum crevasse formations around the equilibrium line zone are long and wide,

mainly transverse-type oriented almost in east to west direction, suggesting bed rock

control when the slope break. The slope increases gradually and becomes steep in the

lower part of the ablation along with narrowing of the valley (Dobhal et al, 1995).

Approx. 1km of lower part of ablation zone including snout is covered by debris.

Several glaciogenic features are developed like lateral moraines on both sides, supra-

moraines, glacier tills, glacier tables, ice pillars, moulins, crevasses and mud flow, etc.

(Chaujar, 1987, Dobhal et al, 1995). The snout (Figure 1.3, 1.7) of the glacier at a

height of 4050m amsl (approx.) is situated about 2.5km south of the Chandra River

opposite Chhota Dara (Dobhal et al., 1995). The first record of snout position available

for the glacier front is from the Survey of India toposheet No. 53H/11 (1962-1963) on

1: 50,000 scale.

A geomorphological map (Figure. 1.3) of the Chhota Shigri glacier has been prepared

on the scale of 1: 10,000 (Chaujar, 1987; Dobhal et al., 1995). The slope morphometry

of the Chhota Shigri catchment as well as of the glacier valley shows that most of the

morphological features are developed due to mechanical weathering related to intense

variation of temperature. The weathered products have been carried down by either the

melt-water or as mass flux. The prominent features include snow-clad peaks, cirques,

truncated spurs with snow-off faces, hanging valley, conical and pyramidal peaks, and

crevasses, moraines, till deposits, water channels and screed flows. The lower ablation

zone of Chhota Shigri glacier is covered by surface moraine and debris. The moraine

near the snout is spread over 0.5km and thus the glacier is entirely hidden under the

ground moraines.

Lateral moraines : Two principal lateral moraines are well developed along the sides of

the glacier. The eastern moraine is 4.5km long from 4750m and reaches down to

4,100m. The western lateral moraine is about 4.8km and originates from 4800m and extends

up to 4200m in a narrow ridge oriented along the north-south direction (Dobhal et al., 1995).

10

———————– Page 24———————–

The lateral moraine deposits (Figure 1.4) are present along the margins of the glacier. They

are abundant on the eastern margin of the Chhota Shigri glacier and are scarcely present on

the western margin. Flow coming from eastern and western side of the glacier merges into

main glacier through a medial moraine present in the upper ablation. The western lateral
moraine is exposed from 32o o ’
13’ 48” N and 77 30 E at an altitude of 4950m, which extend

o o ’
northwards to the snout at 32 16’12” N and 77 31 42” E. This series of moraine further

extends up to a distance of approximately 2.65km northward downstream from the snout. The
lateral moraines on the eastern margin of the Chhota Shigri glacier extends from 32o
16’ 12”

o ’
N and 77 31 42” E at an altitude of 4950m from the upper ablation zone and gets buried for a
distance of around 60m. The eastern morainic deposition again starts from 32o
15’ 05”N and

o ’ o o ’
77 31 48” E to 32 16’12” N and 77 31 48” E and becomes continuous for the rest of its

course which is approximately 3.34km.

Figure 1.4 Lateral moraine of Chhota Figure 1.5 Medial moraine on Chhota
Shigri glacier (GRG, JNU 2008) Shigri glacier (GRG, JNU 2006)

Medial Moraines: The medial moraines are represented by prominent uplifted glacier

surfaces. It formed when the inside lateral moraines of two glaciers merge together and

move down forming a ridge down the center of the combined glaciers. Like lateral moraines,

medial moraines also start from the upper part of the glacier (Chaujar, 1987). According to
Shruti (2008) the medial moraine in Chhota Shigri glacier extended from 32o
13’12” N and

o ’ o o ’
77 30 36” E at an altitude of 4850 m to 32 15’ N and 77 31 12” E at an altitude of 4575m

having a stretch of about 3.5 km (Figure 1.5). A new streak of morainic depositions was

found to be exposed between the eastern morainic deposits and the medial moraine at an

11

———————– Page 25———————–

0 0 0
altitude between 4800m to 4750m at 32 13’ 47.64’’N and 77 31’ 36.10’’E to 32 13’

0
48.38’’N and 77 30’ 39.26’’E.

Terminal Moraines: A well developed terminal moraine indicates that the ice remained

stationary for a considerable period of time. Two morainic loops of terminal moraines have

been observed. The first loop covers a distance of 0.58 km where as second loop extends for

a distance of about 2.08 km (Shruti, 2008). The terminal moraines are also noticed in

downstream along both sides of the Chhota Shigri nala fed by the snowmelt of the glacier.

Figure 1.6 Ablation zone of Chhota Figure 1.7 Snout of Chhota Shigri
Shigri glacier (GRG, JNU, 2009) glacier (GRG, JNU, 2008)

a) Transverse crevasse b) Longitudinal crevasse

Figure 1.8 Crevasses on Chhota Shigri glacier (GRG,JNU, 2008)

12

———————– Page 26———————–

Crevasse patterns

Crevasses are prominent surface features on the glaciers and are developed by the

deformation of ice (Figure 1.8). They form open fractures in response to the stress field at the

surface. They are classified according to the directions of the stress; such as transverse,

longitudinal or radial. In the Chhota Shigri glacier, transverse crevasses are predominant over

all the parts of the glacier (Chaujar, 1987), i.e. they run almost at right angles to the length of

the glacier in E-W direction where as longitudinal crevasses are mainly found in the lower part

and side of the glacier valley, the radial and marginal crevasses are recognized near the snout

or lower part of the glacier (Chansarkar and Dobhal, 1988). The old crevasses developed near

the equilibrium line are healed up near the middle part of the ablation zone and often it is seen

that the surface melt water penetrates the ice body along such crevasses and form subglacial

channels. The crevasses in this glacier show that most of them are 20-40m long confined to the

upper ablation zone and 40-200m near the equilibrium line (Dobhal et al., 1995). These
features are oriented mostly in NW and NE directions with a dip slope of about 45-80o. Kumar

(1991) focused on flow dynamics and has inferred that the vertical component of ice flow is

downward in and around the equilibrium line while it is upward in the lower part of ablation

zone. There is limited geomorphological work carried out till date on Chhota Shigri glacier.

Hence there is a need for such detailed studies in near future.

1.2.3 Climate

Climate is the most important factor that influences glacier dynamics. Any change in the

carbondioxide/greenhouse gas concentration in atmosphere affects the glacier health by

changing the temperature regime and is reflected in the retreat or advance of glaciers. Hence

meteorological studies of glacier basins are highly imperative to understand climate-glacier

interactions.

The climate of Chhota Sigiri and its adjoining area is wet and cool. Climatic records from the

nearest meteorological station in Keylong are not readily accessible. Hence available older

data and other sources of meteorological data have been used by researchers. NCEP/NCAR

re-analyses data was used by Wagnon et al., (2007) to understand climate and mass balance

relationship. Two distinct precipitation regimes (Bookhagen and Burbank, 2006) are

prevalent in this glacier basin. This is typical climate of monsoon-arid transition zone where

both the summer Asian monsoon and the winter mid-latitude westerlies influence the climate

13

———————– Page 27———————–

regime. The Chandra River valley, where the glacier is situated, is drier than the southern

slopes of the Pir Panjal range. This is the leeward effect of the main ridge mostly oriented W-

E, thus preventing part of the monsoon flux from reaching the valley (Bookhagen and

Burbank, 2006). The upper accumulation zone had >65% humidity and experiences

occasional precipitation in the form of snow and rain drizzle. The annual precipitation of on

the glacier is in the range of 150-200cm of snow (Nijampurkar and Rao, 1992). The lower

reaches of the glacier are in the dry cold valley zone. The region is characterized by a cold

season extending from October to April.

Meteorological Studies: The Himalayan glaciers possess most rugged topography coupled

with extreme climatic conditions making them one of the most hostile environments in the

world. Special efforts, therefore, are needed to carry out meteorological studies in the glacier.

In glacier monitoring the important meteorological parameters besides radiation and

temperature are wind speed, rainfall and air moisture. To some extent, rainfall on the glacier

surface and heat from bedrock also adds to the melt from the glaciated zone (Upadhyay et al.,

1989).

Very limited meteorological data is available on Chhota Shigri glacier, mostly of very short

period, collected during the multidisciplinary expeditions in 1986 (Rizvi, 1987), 1987 (Apte

et al., 1988), 1988 (Kulandaivelu et al., 1989) and 1989 (Purohit et al., 1991, Upadhyay et al.,

1989). Thereafter Glacier Research Group (GRG), Jawaharlal Nehru University collected

meteorological data in 2003 (Sharma, 2007) and 2009 (JNU-IFCPAR, 2010).

Initially three observatories were set up in 1986 by (Rizvi, 1987) but continued with only two

observatories in the year 1987, 1988 and 1989; one observatory over the glacier surface

known as glacier camp observatory and the other in the snout area designated as base camp

observatory. Glacier camp observatory was sited at an elevation between 4500 and 4700m,

very near to the accumulation zone of the glacier. Base camp observatory was near the snout

between 3800 to 3900m. During 1986 – 1988, the weather parameters recorded at these

observatories were (a) dry bulb, wet bulb, maximum and minimum temperatures (b) speed

and direction of wind (c) rainfall (d) clouds (e) visibility (f) humidity and (g) past and current

weather at synoptic hours. In addition to these, the total hours of sunshine and hourly

measurements of global solar radiation and albedo were observed. The global solar radiation

and albedo values over rock exposures, fresh snow surface, and dirty ice surface and over old

14

———————– Page 28———————–

snow located in the different parts of the glacier valley were observed (Purohit et al., 1989).

In 2003 an Automatic Weather Station (AWS) was installed on the lower ablation zone of the
glacier. It was installed on the debris covered part of the Chhota Shigri glacier at 32o 16’ N

and 77o 32’ E having an altitude of 4343m amsl. But only seven days’ data could be collected

due to malfunctioning of AWS. The AWS observations recorded were of half hourly interval

with an integration time of 10 seconds (Sharma, 2007). The meteorological parameters

recorded by AWS are presented in Table 1.7 and Figure 1.10.

In 2009, an AWS was installed near to the ELA (Equilibrium Line Altitude) on eastern flank

of the glacier at an altitude of 4980m amsl, a first attempt to collect weather data at this

altitude on this glacier and one among the very few glaciers of Indian Himalaya which have

meteorological station at this altitude. The AWS observations recorded were hourly with an

integration time of 15 minutes (JNU-IFCPAR, 2009). The meteorological parameters

recorded by AWS are presented in graph (Figure 1.11). Rainfall data were not collected in

2003 and 2009 due to lack of rainfall sensor.

Temperature recorded over the glacier surface shows a mean diurnal variation of 9.1°C.

Highest maximum temperature observed is about 10.5°C, 11°C, 8.1°C, 7.5°C, 9.64°C and

11.85°C and lowest minimum temperature of about -4.5°C, -1.3°C, -5.2°C, -1.6°C, -6.22°C

and -13.64°C in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 2003 and 2009 respectively on glacier surface

(Table 1.4). Relative humidity over glacier surface was found to vary between 12-99%.

Highest maximum Relative humidity observed is about 99%, 97%, 91%, 93%, 78.5% and

98.7% and lowest minimum Relative humidity of about 12%, 51%, 60%, 73%, 10.1% and

7.1% in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 2003 and 2009 respectively (Table 1.4). Vapour pressure

shows a variation of about 3mb. ranging from 4.3 to 7.7mb. for all the observations of wet

bulb taken over the glacier surface (Rizvi,1987; Upadhyay et al, 1989; Purohit et al., 1991).

The range of temperature and mean diurnal temperature as well as RH observed both at

glacier and base camp are given in Table 1.4 and 1.5 respectively. The variation in observed

data might be due to difference in observatories’ altitude and observation time.

The half hourly variations of the temperature, relative humidity, net radiation and total solar

flux in the lower ablation zone during 2003 are presented (Figure 1.10). The maximum

relative humidity was observed during night while minimum was observed between 12:00

15

———————– Page 29———————–

o
noon to 1:00 pm. In 2009, the maximum temperature was 17.5 C on September 7 while the
minimum was -13.6oC on October 11. The relative humidity ranges from 7.1% to 98.7%

minimum on September 1 and maximum on October 8, 2009. The fifteen minute variation of

the temperature and relative humidity have been presented graphically (Figure. 1.11).

Table 1.4 Observations at glacier surface (Rizvi, 1987; IMD, 1987; Apte et al.,1988;
Kulandaivelu et al, 1989; Upadhyay et al.,1989; Sharma,2007, JNU-IFCPAR , 2009)

1986 1987 1987 1989 2003 2009
(4700m) (4500m) (4500m) (4600m) (4343m) (4920m)
18 Aug- Jul18 – Aug 2- Aug 17- Oct 2- Aug 18
8 Sept Aug17 Sept 5 Sept11 8 – Oct 10
Highest max. Temp.
o 10.5 11 8.1 7.5 9.64 11.85
( C)

o
Lowest min.Temp. ( C) -4.5 -1.3 -5.2 -1.6 -6.22 -13.64

o
Mean Temp. ( C) 3.4 3.2 3.2 0.7 -0.76

Highest max.R.H. (%) 99 97 91 93 78.5 98.7

Lowest min. R.H. (%) 12 51 60 73 10.1 7.1

Mean R.H. (%) 71 78 78 82 70 63

Table 1.5 Observations near the base camp (Rizvi, 1987; Apte et al., 1988; Kulandaivelu et al., 1989;
Upadhyay et al., 1989)

1986(3816m) 1987(3816m) 1988(3870m) 1989(3870m)

o
Highest maximum Temp.( C) 18 19.6 19.4 17.0

o
Lowest minimum Temp.( C) 4.5 3.4 3.2 0.1
Range 13.5 16.2 16.1 16.9

Mean Temp 10.4 12.8 11.5 9.2

Highest maximum R.H. (%) 98 88 91 92

Lowest minimum R.H. (%) 23 32 40 34

Range 75 56 51 58

Mean R.H. (%) 70 47 59

Wind, varying in speed between 3-15km-1 flows down the slope in south-westerly to

southerly in the valley from Sara Umga Pass in south to the Chandra river valley in north

(Purohit et al., 1991; Sharma, 2007). Wind is calm in the morning and by afternoon it gains

moment and reached a maximum at evening. There was not a single case of heavy rainfall

observed during 1988, although it is for very short period. Highest precipitation of rainfall

(9mm) was measured on August 15, 1988 otherwise trace amount of precipitation are

recorded (Upadhyay et al., 1989; Purohit et al., 1991).

Generally cumulus and stratocumulus clouds amounting to about 3 octa in the morning to 6

16

———————– Page 30———————–

or 7 octa in the evening are observed. Other high altitude cirrus clouds are seen besides

altocumulus and altostratus in the middle order. Sunshine values up to 8.5hrs have been

recorded over the glacier surface during these expeditions (Upadyay et al., 1989). In general,

weather is found to be fair in the early noon hours with development of clouds in the

afternoon on most occasions. Visibility is usually good in the morning but deteriorates with

the low stratus clouds occupying the valley (Rizvi, 1987; Apte et al., 1988; Kulandaivelu et

al., 1989; Purohit et al., 1991; Upadyay et al., 1989).

In 2003, the average of the net radiation of 10 seconds’ integration time reached to a
maximum of 69.35Wm-2 and the maximum value was observed at about midday. The total

solar flux showed a similar pattern for all days except for secondary peaks on Julian days 276
and 280. The maximum value observed were nearly 7000KJm-2 for all days as that of total

solar flux with maximum density ranges from 3.8 to 3.9Wm-2 (Sharma, 2007). To know the

snow melt value, both global solar radiation and albedo measurements were carried out on

snow, old snow, old dry snow, old wet snow, ice and rock exposures at the glacier surface and

surrounding area (Upadhyay et al.,1989), with a view to understand variations in the albedo

values. The mean value of global radiation of the order of 200 calories per sq. cm. per day is

observed. The albedo measured for various exposures in the glacier valley are given in Table

1.6.

Table 1.6 Albedo for various objects on glacier surface (Upadhyay et al., 1989)

Particular Albedo

Fresh snow 70 – 90%

Dry snow 56 – 86%

Snow (1-3 days old) 49%

Old dry snow 44%

Old wet snow 35%

Ice (black) 16%

Rock (surface) 28%

So overall we can say that annual temperature variation near terminus at (4100m) is 15°C to

20°C and near the snow line is 7°C to – 15°C (Sharma, 2007). Annual thermal amplitude is

more than 18°C between January and August, the coldest and hottest months respectively.

17

———————– Page 31———————–

a) b)

c) d)

e)

Figure 1.9 a) Diurnal variation of temperature b) Diurnal variation of Relative Humidity c)
Albedo of the glacier surface d) Average hourly values of solar energy e) wind
rose at glacier camp in 1987 on Chhota Shigri glacier (Upadhyay et al., 1989)

18

———————– Page 32———————–

During July–August, the temperature ranges from 4°C to 20°C while the annual 0°C

temperature is at an altitude of 4900m that creates very cold condition at the Sara – Umga

Pass region (Dobhal et al., 1995). During July to September, temperature ranged from -5.2°C

to 10.5°C at equilibrium line (4600m amsl) on the glacier, whereas near the snout a
maximum temperature of 16o o
C and a minimum of 4 C was recorded (Dobhal et al., 1995). In

the mornings generally clear sky was observed, while strong surface wind began to

blow in the afternoon. Cumulus clouds formed during afternoons and were replaced by

thick stratus clouds drifting through the Sara Umga Pass from south and by evening

covered the glacier completely reducing visibility. Winds were generally light and south to

south-westerly in the morning and gained momentum in the afternoon. Rainfall was

generally less in quantity but high in frequency.

Table 1.7: Chhota Shigri daily Meteorological Parameters, 2-8 Oct. 2003 (Sharma, 2007)

T_Max T_Min T_Avg RH_Max RH_Min Rain NR_Max NR_Min NR_Av Flx_d_Max Flx_d_Min Flx_d_Av. S-Flux_Tot

Julion oC oC oC % % mm Wm-2 Wm-2 Wm-2 KWm-2 KWm-2 KWm-2 KJm-2

276 4.14 -6.22 -1.41 68.81 26.78 0.00 615.43 265.46 510.37 0.40 0.14 0.35 97755.91

277 8.86 -6.09 0.31 63.30 10.17 0.00 529.23 355.54 446.22 0.95 0.76 0.87 72014.85

278 9.64 -4.42 1.61 60.36 11.23 0.00 511.43 346.31 425.64 0.91 0.73 0.82 71106.88

279 7.99 -4.36 1.27 75.20 10.87 0.00 553.58 387.03 463.48 0.91 0.74 0.82 71034.88

280 7.04 -4.52 0.95 78.50 25.13 0.00 670.62 321.74 502.23 0.98 0.63 0.81 69682.74

281 8.57 -4.30 1.41 73.30 22.40 0.00 590.75 327.90 485.79 0.96 0.58 0.85 65752.45

Note: NR = net radiation; Flx_d = incoming solar flux density; S_flux = solar flux; Max= maximum;
Av = average; Tot = total

19

———————– Page 33———————–

a)

b)

c)

Figure 1.10 a) Half hourly variation of temperature b) Half hourly variation of humidity
c) Half hourly variation of total solar flux observed in the lower ablation zone of
the Chhota Shigri glacier in 2003 (Sharma, 2007)

20

———————– Page 34———————–

a)

b)

Figure 1.11 a) Fifteen minute variation of temperature b) Fifteen minute variation of relative
humidity at glacier surface (Upper ablation zone, 4970m) of the Chhota Shigri
glacier in 2009 (JNU-IFCPAR , 2009)

1.2.4 Geology

Chhota Shigri glacier lies in the Central Crystalline of the Pir Panjal range of the Indian

Himalaya. Geological map of the area around Chhota Shigri glacier (including Bara Shigri,

Chhota Darra, behind Sara Umga Pass etc.) is presented in Figure 1.12.

21

———————– Page 35———————–

Figure 1.12 Geological map of the Chhota Shigri Glacier including surrounding area
(CGWB, 2007)

This crystalline axis is comprised mostly of meso- to ketazonal metamorphites, migmatites

and gneisses (Kumar et al., 1987). In few places, granitic rocks of different composition and

younger age indicate rejuvenation. At 3 km upstream of Chhota Dara, in the upper Chandra

valley, older Palaeozoic granitic rocks are exposed. The Haimanta formation overlies these

22

———————– Page 36———————–

with a tectonic break, where black slates, phyllites and fine-grained biotite-schists are

exposed (Rawat and Purohit, 1988, Kumar et al., 1987). The slates and phyllites shows a well

developed thrust tectonic contact, which forms the crest of the northern ridge. Box type folds

with decollement are quite prominent in the Haimanta formation. The brown biotite, with a

fine-grained texture, shows intense heating effect, which indicates periodic re-heating of the

granite rocks below (Rawat and Purohit, 1988). The various types of granite and gneiss rocks

present in the basement also indicate the same activity. Schistose gneiss and Augen gneiss

have developed in the granite without any distinct margins. In Chhota Shigri, Rohtang gneiss

is dominant (Figure 1.12) throughout the glacier bed (Kumar et al., 1987) while some

Chalcopyrite was found in the lateral moraines (Katoch, 1989). The traces of Chalcopyrite

were traceable up to the height of 4700m and in such low quantity that it does not indicate

any major deposit but only thin veins of these minerals can be expected.

1.2.5 Chhota Shigri, a representative glacier in Indian Himalaya

In 2002, an International Workshop was organized in Chhota Shigri glacier by International

Commission on Snow and Ice (ICSI), UNESCO, HKH-Friend and DST in collaboration with

JNU with emphasis on glacier mass balance measurements. Chhota Shigri glacier was

proposed to be considered as a bench mark glacier during the deliberations. Characters for

bench mark glacier recommended by the ICSI are: glacier area neither too small nor too

large, altitudinal range is approximately 1000m (to detect ELA variability), well defined

catchment, simple geometry, easily accessible, well defined accumulation area, single tongue,

insignificant mechanical processes such as avalanches, relatively debris free and smooth

surface, etc. In practice all these requirements are hard to meet but they should be considered

as guidelines. Chhota Shigri glacier fulfilled most of the above requirements and so it was

chosen for long term monitoring as a benchmark glacier in Indian Himalaya.

23

———————– Page 37———————–

Highlights

o ’ o ’ o ’ o ’
Chhota Shigri glacier in India located between 32 11 – 32 17 N and 77 29 – 77 33 E lies on

the Chandra river basin on the northern ridge of Pir Panjal range in the Lahaul-spiti valley of

Himachal Pradesh.

2 2
The total area of this glacier is 15.7km with catchment area of 34.7km . This glacier is

influenced alternatively by Asian Monsoon in summer and mid-latitude westerlies in winter.

Thus it has two distinct accumulations i.e. summer and winter. The geology of the catchment

is dominated by Rohtang gneiss.

Initial monitoring of this glacier began during 1986 to 1989 through Multi Disciplinary

Glacier Expeditions organized by Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology and sponsored by

Department of Science & Technology (DST), Govt. of India. During these expeditions, the

morphology, bedrock topography, meteorological parameters, hydrogeochemistry as well as

the dynamics of this glacier have been surveyed during ablation seasons of 1986 to 1989

period. The detailed topographic map of the Chhota Shigri glacier was prepared by SOI at a

scale of 1:10,000 in 1986.

This glacier has been chosen for integrated long term monitoring because it fulfills most

characteristics of “Bench Mark” glacier and already had significant amount of existing

glaciological database.

Since 2002, scientific community is continuously monitoring the glacier mass balance and

surface velocity with limited work on hydrological balance, hydro-geochemistry of meltwater

and snout monitoring. Meteorological data collection has started in 2009.

24

———————– Page 38———————–

2. Glacier Dynamics

Dynamics of a glacier requires the understanding of the flow of glacier, mass distribution,

energy and temperature distribution, entrainment of debris, character of moraine, crevasse

formation, etc. It also requires fundamental information of mass balance, depth and

temperature of the ice, meteorological data, surface velocity vectors, strain rates, surface

gradients, and changes in the surface elevation.

2.1 Snout Fluctuation

Glacier snout position is the simplest indicator of glacier advance or retreat over a period of

time which generally happens due to climatic fluctuations. The record of palaeo-fluctuations

of the snout can be recreated by comparison of past maps and photographs of different dates

with current and continuous survey of the snout position. The Himalayan glacier fluctuation

records extend back to over 150 years. The earliest studies concerned with glacier snout

fluctuations were made for Chong Kumdan Glacier in 1812 AD by Izzet Ullah. Mayeswki

and Jeschke (1979) studied fluctuation records of 122 glaciers in the Himalaya and concluded

that most of the glaciers are retreating. During the International Geophysical Year (1957-58)

and ‘International Geophysical Decade’ the monitoring of several glaciers like Gangotri,

Satopanth, Milam, Poting, Shankalpa, Pindari, Kaphni, Mrigthuni, Burhagal, Maiktoli,

Machoi, Sonapani, Bara Shigri, Chhota Shigri, etc has been carried out by Geological Survey

of India.

2.1.1 History of snout measurements of the Chhota Shigri glacier

The oldest snout position of the Chhota Shigri glacier is recorded in the SOI Toposheet of

1962 (No. 52H/11 & 12) at a height of 4050m amsl, about 2.5km south of Chandra River

near Chhota Darra, and shifted to 4056m from 1984 to 1989 as assessed regularly by EDM

survey (Kumar and Dobhal, 1994). Later the Chhota Shigri glacier snout was demarcated in

1995 on 1:50,000 scale by GSI (Sangewar, 1995).

2.1.2 Geomorphological evidence of palaeo-fluctuations of the snout

Six stages of glacier retreat/advance (Figure 2.1) have been identified by delineating the

morainic deposits below the present snout position. The small till mound over the old surface

indicates it has undergone substantial phases of advance. The different signatures left by the

retreat or advancement of Chhota Shigri glacier from time to time is of great interest in

25

———————– Page 39———————–

glacier fluctuation measurements (Dobhal, 1992). The main glacier moraine which crosses

over to the other side of the Chandra River indicates the existence of the Chhota Shigri

glacier as a tributary of the old Chandra Valley Glacier prior to the river. This is corroborated

by the long bend in the lower ablation zone of Chhota Shigri glacier and its palaeo-moraines

towards NNE. The extent of the glacier in the past is borne out by the lateral and terminal

moraines seen near the confluence of Chhota Shigri Nala with Chandra river at an altitude of

3750m amsl. This morainic deposit indicates Stage I of glaciations. The second morainic

deposits at 600m south of the Stage I represent Stage II, during which the width of the valley

was reduced to about 100-200m with a reduced energy of transportation. Then Stage III

destroyed the western limb of Stage II suggesting either an advance of the glacier or a sudden

burst at the snout. Stage IV is characterised by a further reduction in the volume and width of

the glacier ice. Stages V and VI indicate glacier advance and retreat in recent times which is

indicated by continuous morainic deposits.

Figure 2.1 Chhota Shigri glacier with different series of morainic deposits (Dobhal, 1992)

26

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2.1.3 Snout fluctuations in the recent past

The snout of the Chhota Shigri glacier has been retreating in recent times, except in 1987

(Table 2.1), (Figure 2.2 and Figure 2.3).

SNOUT

4 9
8
8 9
2 9 1
6 1 R
E
9 I
C
A
1 L
G
I
R
G
I
H
S
A
T
O
H
H
C

RECEDED AREA

GLACIER AREA

0 50 100 150 200
Glacier melt nala Mts
Scale

Figure 2.2 Snout positions in 1984 and 1989 demarcated against the position in 1962
(Dobhal, 1992)

929220

929200

929150

INDEX

1984
1986
1987
1988
1989
Glacier Boundary
10

m 5 Scale

929100 0 m
5 10

929090
3638800 10 20 30 40 3638850

Figure 2.3 The fluctuation of the Chhota Shigri snout mapped during the continuous
observations between 1984 and 1989 (Dobhal, 1992)

While the snout retreated 165m from 1963 to 1984 with an average retreat of 7.86myr-1, it

retreated 60m in the 9 years between 1986 and 1995 with an average retreat of 6.7myr-1. The

27

———————– Page 41———————–

2 -1
surface area vacated by the Chhota Shigri Glacier during 1962 to 1986 was 3629 m yr ,
while it was only 2286m2yr-1 between 1986 and 1995 (GSI, 2001).

Table 2.1 Relative advance/retreat of snout position of Chhota Shigri glacier
(1962-2008)

Year Altitude Snout Period of Advance/ Remarks
(m amsl) fluctuation (m) observation (years) Retreat
(myr-1)

Initial position taken from
1962 4050 – – – SOI toposheet *

Position per SOI Air Survey
1984 – -165.0 22 -7.5
Map of Chhota Shigri *

1986 4055.15 -5.19 2 -2.6 Co-ordinates fixed by WIHG*

1987 4051.40 +17.5 1 +17.5 Co-ordinates fixed by WIHG*

Co-ordinates fixed by WIHG*
1988 4052.60 -22.1 1 -22.1

Co-ordinates fixed by WIHG*
1989 4055.65 -19.01 1 -19.01

Recalculated from WIHG &
1995 – -35.5 6 -5.9 GSI data *

Kulkarni et al. (2007) **
2003 – -800 15 -53.3

Shruti (2008) **
2006 – -850 34 -25

* field based methodology ** remote sensing

The Chhota Shigri snout retreat was estimated to be 53.3 myr-1 between 1988 and 2003

(Kulkarni et al., 2007) by remote sensing and field verification. However, the retreat was
estimated to be 25 myr-1 between 1972 and 2006 (Shruti, 2008), but has its own limitation

due to different image resolutions. However these studies give annual retreat four to nine

times that of GSI. Thus there is a broad consensus among all the above studies that Chhota

Shigri glacier has been in a state of retreat for the last 50 years, though the retreat rates

obtained are highly variable. Such a wide variation cannot be explained and calls for

common standard methodologies to avoid discrepancies and obtain inter-comparable results.

28

———————– Page 42———————–

Table 2.2 Glacier mass balance measurement methods (Osterm and Brugman, 1991)

Sl.No. Measurement Glacier Details Sources

method measured

1 Traditional Entire Surface stakes, snow Ostrem and
probing, snow pit Stanley, 1966
method, snow coring.

2 Snow cover Entire -Do- Zubok, 1975.

3 Index stake Longitude profile of Koermer, 1986.
surface stakes,

a) Balance / Entire Snow pit, coring,
Elevation portion surveying.
Integration. Koermer, 1986 &
Localized high density Reynaud, 1991.
b) Stake farm Portion network of surface

stake, snow pit and ice
core method.
Meier, 1961.
One stake, snow pit and
c) Single stake Portion ice core method.

4 Stratigraphical Entire/ Multivariate/statistical Luboutry, 1974 &
method Portion method, using data Letreguilly, 1984.
a) Linear obtained from 1 & 3

balance model based on site and year.

b) Parameter Entire/ Similar as above (4a) Young, 1976.

correlation Portion but with additional
model correction based upon

model of most
important melt
parameter.

5 Reconnaissance Entire Remote sensing using UNESCO, 1970
method microwave to visible Glen, 1963,
a) AAR wavelength, aerial Ostrem & Stanley,

b) ELA photogrammetry, 1966,
c) Runoff line ground survey of snow Koemer, 1986.
line and surface

roughness.

Contd…

29

———————– Page 43———————–
Table 2.2 Contd…

6 Geodic method Entire Photogrammetry remote Krimmel, 1989,
sensing imagery, Meier &

ground theodolite – 7 Tongborn, 1965,
EDM survey, GPS, Meier et al., 1961.

radar and laser
altimetry.

7 Terminus Entire Ground survey, remote Paterson, 1981.
position sensing, aerial

photography, glacier

flow response model
called “inverse

problem”

8 Hydrologic Entire Basin wide Meier et al., 1961.
method precipitation,
evaporation and runoff.

9 Cross section Entire/ Mass-continuity using Lliboutry, 1971 &
Portion successive glacier cross Letreguilly, 1981.
section, especially
across ELA.

10 Velocity Entire/ Ice flow in Meier & Tangborn
parameter Portion vertical/horizontal 1965.
direction, topographic
change.

11 Climatic Entire/ Energy balance at Greuelland &
parameter Portion surface, precipitation, Oerlemans, 1986,
temperature/ Kotlyakov Krenke,
precipitation at nearby 1982,Tangborn,
location 1980.

30

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2.2 Glacier Mass Balance

Mass balance of the glacier is defined as the balance between the accumulation and the

ablation of the glacier at a given period of time (Bennett and Glasser, 2000).

2.2.1 Different methodologies

There are several methods (glaciological, hydrological, remote sensing, geodic, flux

divergent, AAR and ELA) for carrying out the mass balance studies of a glacier, which has

been used worldwide (Table 2.2). Field methods are among the best methods for calculating

the mass balance of a glacier.

Table 2.3 Mass-balance studies of Himalayan glaciers

Sl. Name of the Glacier Location Period of Sp.Bn. Source
No. Study (m w.e. a-1)

1 Gara Himachal 1974 – 1983 -0.324 Raina et al.,1977

2 Gor–Garang Himachal 1976 – 1985 -0.572 Shankar, 2001

3 Shaune Garang Himachal 1984 – 1989 -0.407 Singh and Sangewar, 1989

4 Neh Nar Kashmir 1976 – 1984 -0.535 Srivastava et al., 1999

5 Changme Khangme Sikkim 1979 – 1986 -0.298 Sharma et al., 1999

6 Rulung Ladakh 1980 – 1981 -0.105 Srivastava et al., 2001

7 Tipra Bamak Uttrakhand 1981 – 1988 -0.241 Gautam and Mukherjee, 1989

8 Dunagiri Uttrakhand 1984 –1990 -1.038 Srivastava and Swaroop, 1989

9 Chhota Shigri Himachal 1987 – 1988 -0.154 Dobhal, 1993

10 Dokriani Uttrakhand 1993 – 2000 -0.320 Dobhal et al., 2008

11 Chhota Shigri Himachal 2002 – 2010 -0.671 Linda, 2003; Sharma, 2007;Linda, 2008;

JNU-IFCPAR,2010; JNU-DST, 2011 )

2.2.2 Status of mass balance studies in the Indian Himalaya

Mass balance studies of Himalayan glaciers were initiated by GSI in 1974 on Gara glacier in

Himachal Pradesh (Raina et al., 1977). Department of Science and Technology (Govt. Of

India) launched an all India coordinated programme on Himalayan glaciers in 1986, and

Chhota Shigri glacier, Himachal Pradesh was selected for multidisciplinary studies. In

1990s, Dokriani

31

———————– Page 45———————–

glacier in Garhwal and Nardu glacier in Himachal were taken up for detailed studies with

special emphasis on mass balance. From 2002 onwards, mass balance monitoring of Chhota

Shigri has been continuously carried out by JNU. The overall results of the mass balance

studies are compiled in Table 2.3.

2.2.3 Mass Balance studies in Chhota Shigri glacier

Mass balance studies on the Chhota Shigri glacier can be divided into two phases, phase I

during 1986 – 1989 and Phase II from 2002.

2.2.3.1 Phase I (1986 – 1989)

Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi organised multidisciplinary glacier

expeditions to Chhota Shigri during phase I. Glaciological method was used to calculate the

mass balance of the glacier. The stakes were fixed at a ratio of 8 to 10 stakes per square km.

the measurement of these stakes were made two or three times during the period from August

to early September. Metallic stakes of 2m to 3.5m length were used. These stakes were

vertically driven through the surface with the help of pouring hot water around the stake and

later the shallow portion was packed with snow and ice so that they freeze in its place. The

surface ablation was measured by measuring the exposed length above the ice surface at

different time intervals. The difference between the initial length of stake and length

measured after a few days gives the measurement of the extent of ablation or accumulation.

Table 2.4 Accumulation/ablation in water equivalent during 1987 (Dobhal, 1992)

Zone Total Area Height Volume Density Accumulation/Ablation

2 3 -2 3
(m ) (m) (m ) (gcm ) (m weq)

4000-4300 283200 -0.97 -274704 0.90 -247233.60

4300-4600 1173500 -0.75 -880125 0.81 -712901.25

4600-4800 2093200 -0.35 -732620 0.67 -490855.40

4800-5300 3666200 +0.21 769920 0.57 +438844.14

32

———————– Page 46———————–

Table 2.5 Accumulation/ablation in water equivalent during 1988 (Dobhal, 1992)

Zone Total Area Height Volume Density Accumulation/Ablation

2 3 -2 3
(m ) (m) (m ) (gcm ) (m weq)

4000-4300 283200 -1.59 -450288 0.90 -405259.20

4300-4600 1 173500 -1.21 -1419935 0.81 -1150147.35

4600-4800 2093200 -0.73 -1528036 0.67 -1023784.12

4800-5300 3666200 +0.40 +1466480 0.57 +835893.6

The summer balance in 1987 and 1988 was calculated by stake measurements for a period of

14 days (03.08.87 to 17.08.87) and 24 days (07.08.88 to 01.09.88) respectively. Dobhal et al.

(1995) observed negative mass balance during this period. The results obtained are

summarised in Table 2.4 and Table 2.5. The summer net balance is more or less same during

both years probably due to short duration of observations.

2.2.3.2 Phase II

In 2002 mass balance studies were initiated by School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal

Nehru University by installing fourteen environment-friendly bamboo stakes for the first time

on the Chhota Shigri glacier. The density of stakes was increased in a phased manner to

obtain a high resolution mass balance data.

Methodology used

Annual surface mass balance measurements were carried out on Chhota Shigri Glacier by

direct glaciological method measuring ablation and accumulation on the glacier at the end of

the ablation season every year i.e. end of September or beginning of October. The series of

bamboo stakes used in this study are more than 8 meters long, drilled into the glacier by using

a portable steam drill (Heucke, 1999).

The details of Glaciological method employed on Chhota Shigri Glacier are given below:

Creating Stake Network

In order to know the ablation and accumulation of the glacier, a network of well-distributed

stakes at different altitudes ranging from 4300m amsl to 5200m amsl were placed throughout

the glacier since 2002.

33

———————– Page 47———————–

32.27

32.26

XIV

XIII
XII
32.25
XI
X

IX

32.24 XXII
VIII
XXI
5050 VII

VI
XX
32.23 V

5050
XXV XIX
IV
XXIII
5050 XVIII III
XVII
32.22 II
5050
I

32.21 XV

5050

32.2 1 Km

32.19

77.48 77.49 77.5 77.51 77.52 77.53 77.54 77.55

Figure 2.4 Distribution of stakes on the Chhota Shigri Glacier (Linda, 2008)

Stake Location

The ablation pattern is much more uniform as compared to the accumulation pattern and thus

point measurements can be representative over large areas. Keeping this in mind, the stakes

were installed along the centre line of the glacier at suitable intervals. Some of the stakes

were placed transversely to the central longitudinal axis in order to monitor the difference in

accumulation pattern resulting from wind distribution, shading or avalanching. The stakes

were installed more in the ablation zone in order to calculate the rate of ablation precisely.

Each stake was installed in such a manner that it represented that part of the glacier where it

stands (Figure 2.4). Finally the exact position of the installed stake on the glacier surface was

recorded by using Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS).

34

———————– Page 48———————–

Installation and Numbering System

A logical system of stake numbering has been followed to easily identify and measure the

stake readings. 1.8m – 2.0m stake segments were attached to get stake lengths of 10 to 12m,

to cope up with the high ablation rates in mid-latitude glaciers. The stakes of different years

were marked differently (apart from the number of the individual set of stakes). A particular

stake consisted of several independent pieces and each set of stake was numbered in a logical

manner during installation. Each piece was engraved with symbols at its neck using a

hacksaw blade like I, II, III, IIII, IIIII, etc; which represented stake piece number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

respectively. Each set of stakes throughout the glacier were numbered using roman numerals

as I, II, III, IV, V……XXIV, etc.

The installation of the bamboo stakes was done by putting the segment I at the bottom and

the rest in ascending order from bottom to top i.e. II, III, IIII, IIIII, etc. Adjacent segments of

a stake were tied together with the help of a steel wire drawn through holes drilled at the end

of each piece. The wire was so tied as to make easy fall-out of the upper stake avoiding any

breakage. The numbering of the segments was done with the help of a hacksaw blade as I, II,

III, IIII and IIIII at the top end of each piece (Fig. 2.5).

35

———————– Page 49———————–

Three rings for 2006
I
X Stake number

I
I
I Piece number

SNOW SURFACE

I
X

I
I ICE SURFACE

I
X

I

Figure 2.5 Numbering of bamboo segments used on the Chhota Shigri Glacier

36

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Technique for Inserting Stakes

In this study a light portable steam driven ice drill (Heucke, 1999) was used successfully for installing

stakes in ablation and accumulation zones in the glacier (Figure 2.6).

Figure 2.6 Diagram of the portable steam driven drill (Heucke, 1999)

Replacement of Stakes

Stakes were replaced annually by inserting the new ones as close as possible to the “original”

stake position that existed in the last ablation season using DGPS.

Installing and Relocating Stakes in the Accumulation Zone

In the accumulation zone, single stakes of 4 – 5m were used, keeping the exposed ends long

enough to know the accumulation in the consecutive year. In order to locate stakes buried

under snow, a microwave reflector system consisting of detector which is a directional radio

transmitter/receiver, and a small reflector tag was used (Ostrem and Brugman, 1991). Apart

from the “Recco” reflector tag, some blue power or saw dust was also sprayed around the

foot of the accumulation stakes; this facilitates easy identification of previous year surface

while digging snow pit for accumulation measurement.

Ablation Measurement

For net ablation measurement the length of stakes above the glacier surface is measured at

two successive dates (t and t ). The depth of snow (D) over ice surface is also measured. The
1 2

37

———————– Page 51———————–

difference between stake lengths buried in ice (L) and snow depths at t and t dates gives the
1 2

specific ablation (ΔS) at this point. Exposed stake lengths and snow depths were measured at

each stake and density factor for ice (D ) and snow (D ) at each measuring point was also
i s

applied.

ΔS = D [L (t ) – L (t )] + D [D (t ) – D (t )]
i 2 1 s 2 1

Where,

ΔS = Specific ablation

t = Year of Initial Measurement
1

t2 = Year of subsequent Measurement

L = Length of stakes buried in ice

D = Depth of snow

Di = Density of ice

Ds = Density of snow

Accumulation measurement

Accumulation was calculated in terms of water equivalent by measuring the snow depth and

applying a snow density factor at each measuring point.

This is achieved either by snow pit or snow core studies. Snow pits dug in specific points in

the accumulation zone to know the yearly accumulation by studying the snow stratigraphy.

The previous year surface was identified from the dirty ice layer or a blue line, if blue powder

was used. Snow density (ρ) at specific depth intervals was calculated by:

ρ = M/V

Where, M is the mass of snow collected in known volume, V.

38

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(a)

(b)

Plate 2.1 (a) & (b) Density measurements on the Chhota Shigri Glacier

39

———————– Page 53———————–

Mass Balance Calculation

The ablation and accumulation values are integrated over the glacier to calculate the mass

balance. The overall specific mass balance, bn , is calculated according to:

b = ∑b (s / S) (in m weq)
n i i

Where bi is the mass balance of the altitudinal range, i, of area si and S is the total glacier

area. For each altitudinal range, bi is obtained from the corresponding stake readings or net

accumulation measurements.

The annual mass balance observed on Chhota Shigri glacier between 2002 and 2010 are

given in Table 2.6 and Figure 2.7. Eight years of annual mass balance studies indicate that the

glacier experienced overall negative balance, with positive balances in 2005, 2009 and 2010.

The specific balances vary from -1.4m weq (2002-2003) to +0.33m weq (2009-2010). Field

observations during the positive years showed heavy accumulation with snow cover even in

the ablation season. Ablation pattern of Chhota Shigri glacier is similar to the mid latitude
glaciers, with mean vertical gradient of 0.7m weq (100)-1 similar to those reported in the Alps

(Wagnon et al., 2007).

Table 2.6 Specific mass balance for 2002 – 2010 (Wagnon et al,. 2007; JNU-SAC, 2008 ;
JNU- IFCPAR, 2009,2010; JNU- DST, 2011)

Year Specific Balance (m weq)

2002 – 2003 -1.4

2003 – 2004 -1.2

2004 – 2005 0.1

2005 – 2006 -1.4

2006 – 2007 -1.3

2007 – 2008 -0.93

2008-2009 0.13

2009-2010 0.33

40

———————– Page 54———————–

2009-10 2008-09 2007-08 2006-07 2005-06 2004-05 2003-04 2002-03

5600

5400

5200

)
l
s 5000
a

m
(

e
d
4800
u
t
i
t
l
A

4600

4400

4200

-600 -500 -400 -300 -200 -100 0 100 200 300

Mass Balance (cm we)

Figure 2.7 Mass balance of Chhota Shigri glacier from 2002 to 2010 (Wagnon et al,. 2007; JNU-SAC,
2008 ; JNU- IFCPAR, 2009,2010; JNU- DST, 2011)

2.3 Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA) and Accumulation Area Ratio (AAR)

Equilibrium line altitude (ELA) is the altitude where the mass balance is zero i.e. the rate of

glacial loss is equal to the rate of glacial gain. Accumulation area ratio (AAR) is the ratio of

the accumulation zone to the total area of the glacier.

For calculating the equilibrium line altitude reconnaissance method was used in the first

phase of observations. In this method the snow line is used for demarcating the equilibrium

line mainly in summer. This is further used for calculating AAR. It was found that if AAR

value is more than 70%, it represents positive mass balance and if less than 70%, it is

negative mass balance and the value 70% corresponds to net balance as zero. Alternatively,

the elevation of the equilibrium line can be determined and its variation from year to year can

be used to find out the yearly net balance of a glacier.

The accumulation area ratio (AAR) was calculated by demarcating the equilibrium line

altitude by snow line. It was done by mapping the snow line in the field and also by using

aerial photographs. AAR thus calculated is shown in Table 2.7.

41

———————– Page 55———————–

Table 2.7 Equilibrium line altitude (ELA) and Area accumulation ratio (AAR) of Chhota
Shigri glacier during 1987 to 1988 (Dobhal, 1992)

Sl.No. Years ELA Accumulation Area Ablation Area AAR Value Remarks
(m amsl) 2 2
(km ) (km ) %
1 1987 4650 6.425 2.325 73 Positive
2 1988 4700 4.150 4.600 59 Negative
3 1989 4840 3.025 5.735 65 Negative

During the second phase of observations the ELA is calculated from ablation and

accumulation values obtained in the field. The ELA was further used for calculating the AAR

of the glacier (Table 2.8). The AAR for the negative mass balance years is found to be less

than 40%, while those for positive balance years it was more than 60%. The difference in

ELA – AAR relationship between the first and second phases could be due to the difference in

glacier area considered in these studies.

Table 2.8 AAR and ELA for the studied period 2002 – 2010 (Wagnon et al,. 2007; JNU-
SAC, 2008 ; JNU- IFCPAR, 2009,2010; JNU- DST, 2011)

Sl.No. Years ELA Accumulation Area Ablation Area AAR Value Remarks

2 2
(m masl) (km ) (km ) (%)

1 2003 5170 4.839 10.880 31 Negative

2 2004 5165 4.951 10.767 31 Negative

3 2005 4855 11.575 4.143 74 Positive

4 2006 5185 4.502 11.216 29 Negative

5 2007 5130 5.707 10.012 36 Negative

6 2008 5120 5.916 9.802 37 Negative

7 2009 4980 9.891 5.809 63 Positive

8 2010 4930 10.962 4.756 70 Positive

42

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2.4 Surface Velocity

Surface velocity of Chhota Shigri glacier was monitored during 1987–1988 with the help of a

stake network (Rawat et al., 1989; Dobhal et al., 1995). Horizontal and vertical flow

components and mass flux pattern were evaluated along the longitudinal axis and twenty

cross sections taken on the glacier. The horizontal and absolute vertical coordinates of stakes

were determined during each expedition using EDM survey. Maximum surface velocity

along the centre line was recorded near the ELA and minimum at about 4800m amsl

elevation where the glacier is thickest and the valley is wide.

The maximum and minimum horizontal surface velocity, vertical component of velocity and

mass flux during August – September 1988, 1987 – 1988 are given in Table 2.9. There was
remarkable change in horizontal surface velocity which decreased from 73.16ma-1 to 32.60

-1
ma during 1985-1988 as shown in Table 2.10 (Kumar, 1988).

Table 2.9 Maximum and Minimum surface velocity, vertical component and mass flux
during 1987 – 88 and 1988 (Rawat et al, 1989; Kumar, 1988)

Description Velocity Height
(myr-1) (m amsl)

August – September 1988

Maximum surface velocity 60.24 4617

Minimum surface velocity (ablation) 28.20 4361

Minimum surface velocity (accumulation) 30.47 4981

Maximum vertical component of velocity 11.70 4982

Minimum vertical component of velocity 0.50 4695

Maximum mass flux +20.20 4387

Minimum mass flux -4.20 4982

1987 – 1988

Maximum surface velocity 42.43 4721

Minimum surface velocity (ablation) 25.70 4387

Minimum surface velocity (accumulation) 32.84 4746

Maximum vertical component of velocity 2.26 4781

Minimum vertical component of velocity 0.10 4468

Maximum mass flux +0.16 4543

Minimum mass flux -0.32 4360

43

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Table 2.10 Mean horizontal surface velocity from 1985 to 1988 (Kumar, 1988)

-1
Year Mean surface velocity (myr )

1985-86 73.16

1986-87 26.44

1987-88 32.6

After a gap of several years, surface velocity measurements on Chhota Shigri glacier were

revived in 2003 using DGPS. The coordinates of the same stake were compared for two

consecutive years in order to know the yearly surface velocity at that point (Table 2.11).

Table 2.11 Surface velocity determined by the stakes on the Chhota Shigri glacier

(Wagnon et al., 2007)

-1 -1
Year Surface Velocity (myr ) Surface velocity (myr )

Upper ablation Zone Lower ablation zone

(5000- 4500m amsl) (< 4500m amsl)

2003 – 2004 38. 5 29

2004 – 2005 37 25.5

2005 – 2006 36 27

2006 – 2007 37.5 28

The velocity in the upper ablation zone (4600 – 5000m) was about 36myr -1 where as it was

-1
26myr in the lower ablation zone (below 4600m). Two peaks of surface velocity were

observed at 3km and 6km from the snout (at 4600m amsl and 4850m amsl respectively).

Summer velocities were found to be little higher than the annual velocities.

2.5 Energy Balance

To study the energy balance over the Chhota Shigri glacier, observations were made at

different altitudes (Bhutiyani, 1989). The energy fluxes over the glacier were calculated using

the modified energy balance equation since conductive heat flux is negligible:

Qm = Qi – Qg + Qs + Q1

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———————– Page 58———————–

Various components of the energy balance equation were calculated using following

expressions:

Qi = Qa (1 – α)

-10 4 4
Qg = 60 x 24 x 0.826 x 10 (0.757 Ta – Ts ) [1- (1 – 0.024 Z) N]

Qs = 6.811 x V [0.239 (T – T )]
1 a s

Qi = 6.811 x V [680/p x 0.622 (Q RH – Q )]
1 i. o

Where

Qa = Insolation per day α = Albedo expressed as decimal fraction

Ta = Mean air temperature in o o
K Ts = Glacier surface temperature in K

X = Height of cloud base in thousands of feet N = Amount of cloud cover expressed

-1
V1 = Wind speed in kmh as a decimal fraction

P = Pressure in mb RH = Relative humidity expressed as a

Q and Q = Saturation vapour pressure in mb decimal fraction
i o

Over water & ice respectively

The energy fluxes, net energy available, mean air temperature, wind speed along with the

amount of the glacier melt per day in centimetres were calculated for various altitudinal

zones.

In the ablation zone, the albedo values being small (10 – 20% for glacier ice and 42% for

firn), insolation is the major contributor to the energy budget. The contribution due to

sensible heat is also significant in these zones. In the accumulation area, due to high albedo

values (because of fresh snow), the contribution due to insolation is fairly low and is almost

negated by net longwave radiation and latent heat flux resulting in no effective melting on the

surface except for few days during the observation period (Bhutiyani, 1989).

Hasnain & Sen, (1989) computed short-term energy fluxes by measuring the mean daily
radiation flux, which ranges from 136 to 262 Wm-2 and the sensible heat flux, which varies

from 18 to 91Wm-2. The solar radiation (84%), sensible heat flux (21%) and latent heat flux

(-5%) were the main contributors to the energy fluxes.

45

———————– Page 59———————–

Highlights

-1 -1
Snout fluctuations in Chhota Shigri glacier vary from 5.9myr to 53.3myr . Though most of
the studies show retreat less than 20m yr-1.The unusually large retreat shown in a couple of

studies could be due to different methodologies adopted.

Eight years of annual mass balance studies indicate that the glacier experienced overall

negative balance, with positive balances in 2005, 2009 and 2010. The earlier mass balance

study carried out during 1986-88 also shows negative balance, though the observations were

only for very short periods, and the area considered was small due to exclusion of the

tributaries. The cumulative specific mass balance during 2002 – 2010 was – 5.37m weq.

ELA was calculated from ablation and accumulation values and was used to estimate the

AAR of the glacier. During 1987 – 1989 the ELA varied between 4650m amsl to 4700m amsl

with AAR varying between 65% to 73%. Whereas studies done between 2002 – 2010 show a

variation of ELA between 4855m amsl to 5185m amsl and AAR between 29% to 74%

respectively. The difference in ELA – AAR relationship between various authors could be

due to the different methodologies adopted.

No significant difference was observed in glacier mean surface velocities observed during

1985 – 1988 and 2003 – 2007.

Preliminary energy budget studies could not quantify the specific factors driving the energy

balance in Chhota Shigri glacier.

The above facts highlight the need for evolving uniform methodologies to understand the

factors controlling glacier dynamics for inter-comparison and precision of data sets. Further,

to overcome the discontinuity of mass balance data over a few decades, a mass balance model

needs to be developed so that long-term glacier response to climate change can be

understood.

An integrated long-term monitoring program to quantify the hydrological, mass and energy

balances of the glacier and the role of debris cover on glacier health is imperative to

understand the complex processes that affect the future water resource availability in the

Indian Himalaya.

46

———————– Page 60———————–

3. Chemical Investigations

Glaciers potentially contain a wealth of information on the history of air temperatures,

pollution, etc. leading to the study of chemical constituents of glacial snow and ice (Herron,

1982; Wolff and Peel, 1985). In a glaciated catchment, solutes derived from atmospheric

deposition are incorporated as solid or liquid precipitation, which allows understanding the

impact of air quality on the chemical characteristics of melt water.

Hydrochemical investigations of glacial melt-water helps in identifying the nature and

concentration of solute embedded in the underlying lithology as well as contribution from

atmospheric deposition. The melt water is further enriched in solute derived by hydrological

pathways within the glacier. Thus, in glaciated catchments, solute acquisition processes vary

in time and space. Hence, long-term monitoring of chemical signatures helps to quantify the

relative contributions of natural and anthropogenic constituents in snow pack and glacial ice

melt runoff. Inter-basin variation in the melt water chemistry will help in deciphering the

effects of climate on the solute acquisition processes and chemical weathering.

The recent interest in water quality of glacierised areas was largely initiated to elucidate

hydrological processes in the inaccessible subglacial environment. As the gaps in our glacio-

chemical knowledge are addressed, studies on the quality characteristics of melt waters

draining from glaciers and ice sheets have the potential to provide important information

about the character of subglacial drainage systems, their evolution over time, the role of

terrestrial ice masses in chemical denudation and climate change. An overview of the various

chemical investigations undertaken on Chhota Shigri glacier in the last three decades is

discussed below.

3.1 Snow and Ice Chemistry

Precipitation (rain/snow) plays a major role in the transfer of chemical constituents from the

atmosphere to the glacier. The chemical composition of snow and ice in Chhota Shigri glacier

(surface and core) in Chhota Shigri glacier is given in Table 3.1.

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———————– Page 61———————–

Table 3.1 Major ion composition of snow and ice from the Chhota Shigri glacier

(Nizampurkar et al., 1993)

Sample Sample Altitude Na K Mg Ca Cl NO SO Si
3 4

code nature (m) (µgl–1 )

1. Snow 4050 678 394 51 204 1229 327 141 270

2. Snow 4150 240 216 57 106 521 337 164 690

3 Snow 4250 369 316 148 277 524 584 239 600

4 Snow 4350 288 267 142 228 443 855 209 570

5 Snow 4450 189 166 74 131 438 351 189 345

6 Snow 4550 202 190 103 179 422 343 347 480

7 Snow 4650 329 190 193 543 667 2994 – 540

8 Snow 4750 983 495 46 155 1780 – 183 30

20 Surface ice 4650 537 318 74 228 781 356 – 75

21 Surface ice 4550 118 115 28 57 278 270 114 60

22 Surface ice 4450 118 64 28 82 245 869 – –

23 Surface ice 4350 125 64 17 30 331 – – 15

24 Surface ice 4150 189 115 34 106 457 220 241 –

25 Surface ice 4100 22 90 28 155 149 – – 90

80 Ice/snow core at

(4900m) 0-12 288 216 85 252 661 1105 13 180

81 Depth (cm) 12-24 1433 495 176 228 3343 943 135 105

82 Depth (cm) 24-36 349 267 68 155 624 – 480 15

83 Depth (cm) 36-48 150 115 74 106 362 – 364 45

84 Depth (cm) 48-60 202 140 23 87 298 498 10 < 5

85 Depth (cm) 60-72 99 115 40 82 216 – 359 < 5

86 Depth (cm) 72-84 150 115 23 57 287 522 4 < 5

87 Depth (cm) 84-96 279 216 28 57 542 453 23 < 5

88 Depth (cm) 96-108 202 166 17 57 413 492 35 < 5

89 Depth (cm) 108-120 588 419 57 179 1002 722 98 < 5

90 Depth (cm) 150-225 1433 571 170 1130 2404 841 627 30

91 Depth (cm) 225-300 758 292 74 447 1292 820 284 30

92 Depth (cm) 300-360 1372 671 108 691 2100 715 542 60

93 Depth (cm) 360-420 1331 546 108 740 2038 752 452 15

48

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The samples of snow and surface ice from shallow pit/core (0–4m) collected in 1987 at an

altitude of 4900m amsl in the accumulation zone of the glacier were analyzed for chemical
constituents (Nizampurkar et al., 1993). The concentrations of analyzed major ions (Na+ +
, K ,

++ ++ – – —
Mg , Ca , Cl , NO3 and SO4 ) and dissolved silica in snow, surface ice, shallow ice core

and melt-waters are mainly derived from cyclic salts and local anthropogenic sources. The

ionic composition indicates that sea salts evaporated during the summer months from the

Arabian Sea that are transported inland and scavenged by the wet precipitation during the

winter months over the glaciers of high altitude Himalaya. The sea salt contributions and the

concentration peaks are directly related to weather conditions revealed in the snow profile.

The contribution of some major ions from anthropogenic and terrestrial sources also controls

their chemical compositions.

The average concentrations of major ions are higher in snow as compared to surface ice due

to elution in the snowmelt. Most of the salts are concentrated on the snow surface and are

easily removed by water percolation. Further, the snowfall during the year 1987 was much

higher (~2m) with strong winds and stormy conditions compared to the preceding years,

which might have transported the higher flux of elements from their respective sources

(Nizampurkar et al., 1993).

The chloride concentration observed in Chhota Shigri is higher by a factor of five than in

Tibetian glaciers, and nitrate in snow samples is higher by a factor of seven than those in

Ladakh Himalaya, while sulphate is comparable with those from the Kangri glacier
(Mayewski et al.,1983; Lyons et al., 1981). Unlike NO – the average SO — concentration in
3 , 4

snow samples is much lower than in the ice core samples indicating low level of SO4– in the

ambient atmosphere during deposition.

3.2 Meltwater Chemistry

Hydrochemical data on meltwaters draining the glaciated basins in the Himalayas are scant.

To understand hydro-chemical processes influencing Chhota Shigri glacier, meltwaters

draining from the snout were analyzed for major cations and anions as shown in Table 3.2

(Hasnain et al., 1989, Sharma, 2007, Ramanathan et al., 2009). Meltwaters from the glacier
surface have low solute content (electrical conductivity 5.0-5.92µScm-1 2+ –1
; Ca 36.5 µeql ;

2+ –1 + –1 + –1
Mg 6.7 µeql ; Na 15.6 µeql ; K 8.7 µeql ) whereas base flow waters are chemically
enriched (electrical conductivity 23.2-29.0µscm-1, Ca2+ 45.0-495 µeql–1 ; Mg2+ 29.1-41.7 µeql–

1 + –1 + –1
; Na 30.4-34.8 µeql ; K 10.3-35.9 µeql ).

49

———————– Page 63———————–

The water movement within the Chhota Shigri glacier appears to be through the subglacial

and englacial channels (Hasnain et al., 1989). The total dissolved solids (TDS) content is

generally low as compared to Indian river water quality that are more alkaline and carry more

concentrated salts (Subramanian, 1979, Ramanathan et al, 1993). The low solute content in

Chhota Shigri meltwaters was attributed to the granitic bedrock of the glacier, which are less

prone to weathering.

The meltwaters emerging from the snout appears to contain a higher proportion of subglacial

waters than the supraglacial melt. This indicates that the entire solute concentration in

meltwater is derived from subsurface environment. Meltwaters flowing through subglacial

channels becomes chemically enriched by interacting with basal morainic material (Benzinge

et al., 1973).

Since 2003, the School of Environmental Sciences, JNU has been monitoring Chhota Shigri

glacier meltwater quality to understand the hydrogeochemical processes and the solute

sources of the melt waters. Initially about forty samples were collected for two weeks

coinciding with annual mass balance measurements during September-October and analyzed

for major dissolved constituents. The melt waters were found to be neutral to slightly alkaline
in nature. EC ranged from 66-96μScm-1 -1 -1
in 2003, 73-95μScm in 2004 and 93-133μScm in
2005 with average value of 81μScm-1 -1 -1
, 84μScm and 109μScm respectively. In 2005, the

high EC probably followed the excess snowfall and resulting high albedo, synchronous with

low water discharge. Bicarbonate, sulfate and calcium are the dominant ions in the melt

water. These ions are enriched in 2005 probably due to the contribution from multiple

sources such as dust/aerosols deposition, etc. Bicarbonate is probably derived from carbonate

weathering and partly from silicate weathering. Both cation and anion concentration show an

increasing trend from snout to downstream region (discharge site) as observed in other

Himalayan glaciers melt water. The maximum concentrations of the ions were observed in

the morning due to low discharge and further reduced in afternoon during high discharge

period. The dissolved silica concentration is higher due to the physical weathering process

along with existing alkaline environment. Gibbs diagram shows that rock weathering

induced by precipitation is the most dominant process controlling their water quality. Most of

the carbonate is derived from carbonate weathering and silicate weathering as observed from

the high ratio of (Ca+Mg) to (Na+K) and (HCO ) to (HCO ) . The other ratios
3 C 3 Si

c(Ca2+ 2+ + 2+ 2+ + + + + +
+Mg )/TZ , c(Ca +Mg )/c(Na +K ) and c(Na +K )/TZ also show the dominance

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———————– Page 64———————–

of carbonate weathering followed by silicate weathering. The estimated bicarbonate

contribution i.e. 69% comes from carbonate weathering followed by 31% from silicate

weathering (Raymahasay, 1986, Ramanathan et al., 2009). Rock weathering followed by

precipitation controls the melt water chemistry. These factors results in excess solute

transport in Chhota Shigri melt waters and to the Chandra River, which in turn transfer the

chemical load to the great Himalayan river systems and to the open ocean. Both cation and

anion concentrations show increasing trend from snout to discharge site as observed in other

Himalayan glacier melt waters. In general all cation and anion concentrations are maximum

in morning and become minimum in afternoon due to dilution effect (Sharma, 2007).

A summary of the meltwater chemistry from Chhota Shigri glacier is given in Table. 3.2. In

1987, the study was focused on surface water chemistry including a few glacial run-off

samples (Hasnain et al., 1989; Dhanpal, 1990). Supraglacial waters were found to have lower

concentration of solutes compared to glacier runoff water, as these get enriched with solutes

after interacting with subglacial environment. The concentration of cations and anions are

higher during September/October followed by August/September and July/August due to the

dilution effect in the high discharge periods coupled with the low residence time in subglacial

channels.

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———————– Page 65———————–

Table 3.2 Comparison of meltwater chemistry parameters (values in µeql–1 except EC and pH)

1987 1987 1987 2003 2004 2005 2008 2009

Chemical Supra- Glacier Melt water Glacier Glacier Glacier Glacier Glacier

Character- glacier runoff runoff runoff runoff runoff runoff

istics surface water water water water water water

water

(Sept-Oct) (Sep-Oct) (Jul-Aug) (Sep-Oct) (Sep-Oct) (Sep-Oct) (Jul-Aug) (Aug-Sep)

(Hasnain et (Hasnain (Dhanpal., (Sharma., (Sharma, (Sharma, (Ramana- (Singh,

al., 1989) et al., 1990) 2007) 2007) 2007) than et al., 2011)

1989) 2009)

pH – – 6.2-7.2 7.2 7.4 7.5 7.3 6.5

EC(µs/cm) 5.0-5.9 23.2-29.0 19.9-47.3 81.2 84.7 108.9 20.6 42.5

HCO – – 144.2-281.9 391 341 522 125.9 218.5
3


Cl – – 28.1-67.6 15 23 37 14.1 2.8

SO4 2- – – 62.5-145.8 228 328 280 54.7 103.7

PO4 3- – – – 73 60 106 – 1.0

NO3 – – – – 39 37 56 1.5 0.3

H SiO – – – 48 67 62 26.1 33.4
4 4

Ca2+ 36.5 45.0-495 105-185 335 325 527 80.5 103.5

Mg2+ 6.7 29.1-41.7 8.3-16.66 201 224 281 67.1 98.8

+
K 8.7 10.3-35.9 25.64-38.46 60 85 88 15.8 28.9

+
Na 15.6 30.4-34.8 34.8-69.6 94 105 116 20.1 38.8

3.3 Radio and Stable Isotopic Investigations

Radioactive and stable isotopes and chemical tracers are excellent time markers and climatic

indicators which play an important role in the understanding of past climatic, atmospheric,

nuclear and chemical records from both polar and non-polar regions (Delmas et al., 1982;

Nijampurkar et al., 1982; Von Gunten et al., 1983; Jouzal et al., 1987). Glaciers and ice caps

located at high altitude of remote areas in tropical latitudes may contain records extending

back for periods of a few hundred to thousand years (Thompson et al., 1990).

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———————– Page 66———————–

Earlier long-lived isotopes such as 32Si with a half-life of ~140 years (Somayajulu et al.,

1987) and 210Pb (half-life of 22.3 years) have been used to estimate the ages of Himalayan

glaciers, using the standard radioactivity decay equation and a simple two component model

(Nijampurkar and Rao, 1992).

Systematic isotopic studies based on natural and artificial radioisotopes, stable isotopes and

total β activity measurements were carried out on Chhota Shigri glacier, Himachal Pradesh.

During August 1987, about 70 samples of snow, ice and shallow ice cores were collected

from both the accumulation zone and ablation zone of Chhota Shigri glacier for isotopic
studies (Table 3.3). Based on δ18O variations in a shallow ice core, the snow accumulation on

Chhota Shigri glacier averaged for the 2 years prior to August 1987 was calculated to be
520kgm-2a-1 (Nijampurkar and Rao, 1992).Using a half-life value of 140 years for 32Si and

assuming the average value of 32Si concentration in the snow precipitation in the Himalayan

region to be 0.7 dpm103 -1
l (Nijampurka et al., 1982), a radiometric age of 250 years of snout

ice was obtained and the average surface ice flow rate over the past few centuries was
calculated to be 28ma-1. They observed a mix of at least 55% snow melt and 45% of old ice

melt that emerges from the supraglacial lake of Chhota Shigri glacier (Nijampurkar and Rao,

1992).

Table 3.3 32 Si concentrations in snout and meltwaters samples from Chhota Shigri glacier

(Nijampurkar and Rao, 1992)

Sample Nature Volume 32P activity *32Si concentration Radimetric Surface ice
code altitude processed (cph) dpm10-3 L age(yr) flow rate

-1
(m) (litre) (ma )

CS-1 Snout Ice 900 1.50±0.25 0.21±0.04 250 28
(4100)

CS-2 Meltwater 950 4.44±0.26 0.47±0.03 80 –
(4000)

137Cs with a longer half-life (30 year) could be identified in the γ-ray spectrum of snow

samples among the 144Ce, 134Cs, 125Sb, 103Ru, 95Zr etc. that were produced during the

Chernobyl accident (Sadasivan and Mishra, 1986) collected at different altitudes. They did
not observe high total β and 137Cs activities in samples collected at different depths showing

that the radioactive clouds bearing Chernobyl fall-out did not penetrate or diffuse beyond

4700m altitude over the glacier and their deposition in the Himalaya (Nijampurkar and Rao,

1992) is much lower, by a factor of at least 15, than that deposited in the Swiss Alps

(Haeberli et al., 1988).

53

———————– Page 67———————–

Table 3.4 Deposition of total and 137Cs activities at different altitudes on Chhota Shigri glacier

(Nijampurkar and Rao, 1992)

Sample Total β activity 137Cs activity

Altitude
(m) dphl-1 dphl-1

Snow Ice Snow Ice
4100 766 ± 12 390 ± 8 10 ± 10 16 ± 5

4150 2305 ± 70 – 38 ± 7 –

4250 – – 141 ± 6 –

4350 4305 ± 82 248 ± 8 93 ± 10 15 ±12

4450 3911 ± 85 878 ± 19 119 ± 32 10 ± 15

4550 8413 ± 235 – 255 ± 30 –

4650 1613 ± 25 616 ± 8 70 ± 15 27 ± 6

4900 656 ± 15 – 15 ± 30 –

54

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Highlights

The sporadic studies of major ions in meltwater throws some light on the character of rock-

water interaction in Chhota Shigri glacier catchment. Ionic concentrations show increasing

trend from snout to discharge site and are maximum in morning and minimum in afternoon

due to dilution effect. However these studies were conducted for a short duration and could

not conclusively describe the inter-annual and even inter-seasonal variability in meltwater

chemistry.

Radiometric ages of snout ice as well as the melt water emerging from the snout were
estimated through radioisotope analyses. Snow accumulation rate of 520kga-1 was arrived at

through 18O isotope investigations.

The detailed hydrogeochemical processes that characterize this glacier will throw light on

various factors controlling the water chemistry including the role of anthropogenic activities

on glacier health.

55

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4. Hydrological Investigation

The changes in the hydrological response of a basin will depend on the sources of runoff,

climatic conditions, physical characteristics of the basin and the magnitude of projected

climatic scenarios (Singh and Bengtsson, 2005). Proglacial discharge is controlled by the
geometry of the glacial drainage network and meltwater processes. 1.8gtyr-1 suspended-

sediment (about 9% of the total annual load carried from the continents to the oceans

worldwide) is transported by three major Himalayan river systems: the Brahamaputra, Ganga
and Indus in a combined runoff of 1.19 x 103 3
km (Meybeck, 1976). Melting glaciers provide

a key source of water for the Himalayan region in the summer months though the regional

hydrological cycle is complicated by Asian monsoon (Barnett et al., 2005). Hence

understanding glacier hydrology is crucial for water resource management in this region.

4.1 Discharge Monitoring

In order to decipher the quantum of discharge including sediment load from Chhota Shigri

glacier, initial attempts were made by various institutions during the interdisciplinary

Expeditions of 1986-1989. Since 2003, discharge and sediment load measurements were

carried out coinciding with the mass balance studies.

Discharges were measured by velocity-area method (Figure 4.1) and salt dilution technique.

A coefficient of 0.910 was used to compute the average velocity from surface velocity.

Average velocity = 0.910 x surface velocity

Diurnal variation in the discharge was determined by hourly observation of discharge for 48
hr periods. The daily mean discharge was observed between 6m3 -1 3 -1
s to 13m s . Diurnal

discharge observations revealed that high discharge (Q ) and low discharge (Q ) occurred
H L

between 3:30-7:00pm and 3:00-7:00am respectively. The ratio of Q and Q was found to be
H L

approximately 1.50 (NIH, 1991).

A lag time of 1 – 2 hours was reported for discharges in the melt water stream in 1988 (Singh

& Verdhen, 1989) whereas it was between 2 – 3 hours in 1989 (NIH, 1991). This variation in

lag time may be due to changes in Accumulation Area Ratio (AAR) and/or the debris cover

in the lower ablation zone, which can be confirmed through modelling approach.

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———————– Page 70———————–

Figure 4.1 Discharge station established on Chhota Shigri meltwater stream, 1986-88
(NIH, 1991)

Discharge measurements were also carried out thrice a day at 7:30am, 11:00am and 6:00pm

during the same period (Dillon & Sharma, 1988; Vohra, 1989, 1991a). Float method was

used for velocity measurements, and the cross section was made using depth measurements at

one meter intervals across the gauging site. The average discharge in 1987 was about

3 -1 3 -1
10.80m s , whereas it was about 9.9m s in 1988. Generally the maximum and minimum

discharges were observed between 4:00 to 7:00pm and 3:00 to 7:00am respectively. Lack of

meteorological data for the Chhota Shigri glacier basin was a limitation in establishing

definite climate-discharge relationships.

Related studies conducted during the same period computed the density of snow/firn upto 1m

-3 o o
depth on the glacier to be about 0.55gcm , with temperatures ranging from -0.5 C to -5.5 C

(NIH, 1988). The annual and interannual variations in discharge are mainly controlled by

melting rates. The discharge was found to depend mainly on air temperature and it alone

explained about 60% of discharge (Vohra, 1991a). The remaining 40% is the resultant of

basal melting and liquid precipitation on the glacier. In extreme cold condition very little

water is released by glacier as there is almost no surface melting, whereas basal melt is solely

driven by geo-thermal energy and glacier movement. Shape of diurnal, seasonal and annual

hydrographs remained unchanged, although discharge showed wide variations year to year.

57

———————– Page 71———————–

Figure 4.2 Discharge station re-installed on Chhota Shigri meltwater stream in 2009 (JNU-
DST, 2011)

Discharge measurements were carried out 2km downstream of the glacier terminus at an

altitude of about 3800m amsl since 2003 (Figure 4.2). Surface flow velocities were measured

by float method and cross checked by current meter periodically. The discharge peaked

between 2:00 to 5:00pm and reached a low at around 7:00am on sunny days, with significant

differences on rainy or cloudy days. Average discharge of morning, afternoon and evening

computed for observation periods during 2003 to 2008 (Figure 4.3) shows that the average
discharge varies between 0.5m3 -1 3 -1
s to 2.5m s (Sharma , 2007; JNU-IFCPAR, 2009). The
average discharge computed for 2009 was 3.92m3s-1, with May–June discharge about 10-15%

of July–August. The variations observed in discharge and its lag time between the 1980s and

2000s may be due to changes in glaciated area, subsurface channels, ice thickness,

meteorological conditions and seasonality.

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Figure 4.3 Morning, afternoon and evening discharge in Chhota Shigri meltwater stream,
2002-2008 (Sharma et al, 2009)

Meltwater contribution of Chhota Shigri glacier to Chandra river was estimated from

3 -1 3 -1 3 -1
discharge data to be 1,14,853m d in 2003, 1,82,650m d in 2004, 91,843 m d in 2005,

3 -1 3 -1 3 -1
1,08,864m d in 2006, 1,02,81m d in 2007 and 1,13,184m d in 2008 during the

observation period. The average monthly contribution of Chhota Shigri glacier to stream flow
for three months (July-September) was 34,45,590m3 3
in 2003, 54,79,500m in 2004,

3 3 3 3
27,55,290m in 2005, 32,65,920m in 2006, 30,84,480m in 2007 and 33,95,520m in 2008.

The discharge measurements attained a momentum in 2010, when automatic level gauge was

installed at the discharge site, thus enabling continuous measurements. Depth-integrated

velocities were measured by current meter in May and later up-dated with surface velocities

at higher water levels.

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———————– Page 73———————–

Figure 4.4 Daily average discharge hydrograph (m3/s) for 2010 (JNU-IFCPAR,2010; JNU-DST,

2011)

Figure 4.4 gives the daily averaged discharge hydrograph for the 2010 field season. It was
observed that average daily discharges varied from 1m3 -1 3 -1
s in end-May to 8.5m s in end-

July/early August and again reduced to near zero values in early October. Diurnally the

discharge peaked between 3.00 to 4:00pm and reached a low at around 7:00am on every

sunny day, with significant differences on rainy or cloudy days. Air temperature, driven by

solar radiation appears to be the main factor controlling meltwater discharge. The discharge

reduced on rainy days, possibly because of lower air temperatures reducing meltwater

generation, the exceptions being heavy storm events where the contribution from

precipitation compensated for reduced melt. A detailed analysis of diurnal discharge

variations to understand the dynamics of the glacier hydrological system is underway as part

of the ongoing DST project on Chhota Shigri Glacier.

4.1.1 Discharge – mass balance relationship

The discharge measurements between 2003 and 2008 were carried out in conjunction with

annual mass balance measurements for the glacier. A plot of the average discharge and

annual mass balance revealed an inverse relationship with discharge (Figure 4.5). The least

discharge was observed in 2005 which showed a positive mass balance probably due to heavy

snow fall increasing the albedo and reducing snow and ice melt. On the other hand, 2004 with

high ablation on glacier surface resulted in increased discharge. This suggests that glacier

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———————– Page 74———————–

melt controls the hydrology of this catchment. However these relationships being based on

discharge measurements for short periods have limitations in forming definite conclusions. It

is hoped that with the ongoing continuous discharge measurements, discharge-mass balance

relationships can be better understood and the hydrological balance computed annually for

this representative glacier in Western Himalaya.

Figure 4.5 Variations of Discharge and Mass Balance 2003-2008 (Sharma et al, 2009)

4.2 Sediment Load

Sediment load of Chhota Shigri meltwater stream was estimated by CWC during August-

September, 1989. Average sediment load carried by this stream in the month of August was
529td-1 3 -1
, while average discharge was 9.0m s . The sediment load fluctuated on a day to day

basis, increasing with discharge and liquid precipitation (Vohra, 1991b).

Observations made in 1987 and 1988 reveals that the sediment transport characteristics of the

melt stream fluctuate widely from 103-2040 ppm (NIH, 1991). A drastically high

concentration observed on the first day of high peak of discharge is possibly due to side wash

load stored in moraines, debris and other alluvial fills. There is no direct relationship

between discharge and sediment transport, though broadly it could be stated that an increase

in discharge corresponds to increase in suspended sediment concentration (Figure 4.6). In

addition a sharp increase in sediment concentration soon after rainfall events was also

observed. (Vohra, 1991b).

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Figure 4.6 Variation of Discharge and Sediment load in August-September 1989
(Vohra,1991b)

Table 4.1 gives estimates of average discharge and sediment load for 1987-1989. For a

similar discharge in August, the sediment load is lesser than that in July, evidently due to

sediment evacuation. Sediment yields reduced drastically in September when the discharge

reduced by about 50%. Sediment yield by Chhota Shigri glacier stream was reported to be
about 529td-1 during August 1989 and the annual suspended sediment yield from this glacier

stream has been computed to be 49,273 tons. The average annual denudation rate in this
small 45km2 drainage basin was approximately 0.766mmyr-1, five times the world average.

This high rate of denudation can be attributed to mass movement on steep valley slopes

which are mostly un-vegetated and hence easily eroded (Vohra, 1991b).

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Table 4.1 Estimated Runoff and sediment load of Chhota Shigri glacier, 1987-1989 (Vohra,
1991b)

Average Runoff Average Sediment load

Month Discharge Runoff Sediment load Erosion rate

3 -1 -1 -1 -1
m s mmd * Td mmd

July 9.14 17.54 529 0.0084

August 9.28 17.81 502 0.0080

September 5.40 10.37 185 0.0029

Yearly Average
3.30 6.33 135 0.0021
(Extrapolated)

*millimetres per day

A recent study on the sediment transfer processes during 2003 to 2008 in the glacier

meltwater stream observed that sediment load is highest at peak discharge (Sharma, 2007;

JNU-IFCPAR, 2009). However, solute concentration decreased with increasing discharges

possibly due to dilution effect. Mean solute load during 2005 (minimum discharge year) was

only 10% of the mean sediment load while in 2004 (maximum discharge year) it was even

less than 10%. The average suspended sediment yield for Chhota Shigri catchment in a day
was estimated to be about 4tkm-2 in 2005, 2006, 2007 and about 6tkm-2 in 2003 and 2008

while it was 9.5tkm-2 in 2004 (Sharma, 2007; JNU-IFCPAR, 2009). The average suspended

sediment yield for Chhota Shigri stream, for whole melt season was estimated to be about
600-950tkm-2 during the observation period 2003-2008. Diurnal variability in suspended

sediment in this meltwater stream is significantly higher than discharge variation, possibly

because sediment is flushed out as the discharges rise during the day and later for the same

discharge less sediment is available.

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Figure 4.7 Suspended sediment concentration in Chhota Shigri meltwater, 2010 (JNU-DST,
2011)

During the 2010 ablation season, suspended sediment concentration varied from near zero to

about 3g/l, increasing as discharges peaked (Figure 4.7). Diurnal variations were equally

significant to that of seasonal fluctuations. A wide range of suspended loads were observed

for similar discharges, indicating subglacial sediment storage and evacuation. Such wide

variations also call for detailed investigations into the dynamics of glacial hydrological

system.

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Highlights

Decadal discharges observed during 1986-1989 were significantly higher in comparison to

that observed during 2003-2008. The higher discharge observed in the previous decades is

comparable with the continuous measurements carried out throughout the ablation season in

2009 and 2010. The factors controlling the inverse relationship observed between mass

balance and discharge need detailed investigations.

The discharge and lag time variations observed in the past three decades can be explained by

the changes in glaciated area, ice thickness, subglacial hydrology, seasonality, etc. Further

attempts are needed to delineate exactly the various factors controlling the lag time using

advanced techniques like tracers: fluorescent dye or radioactive isotopes.

Variation in discharge and suspended load shows significant diurnal and seasonal variations

even though observed for short periods, which calls for detailed investigations. The average
annual denudation rate of this glacier was estimated to be approximately 0.766mmyr-1.

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5. Miscellaneous Research

This chapter covers studies carried out in Chhota Shigri Glacier not covered in the previous

sections of this status document. These are grouped under palynological studies, spectral

reflectance studies, geophysical and geodetic investigations and base metal surveys. Though

these studies are of diverse nature, they highlight the other possible approaches through

which the glacier environment can be understood.

5.1 Palynological Studies

Palynological studies carried out on Chhota Shigri glacier were initially aimed at obtaining

basic information on palynomorphs, their differential production, dispersion and preservation

(Bera, 1988). This attempted to correlate pollen spectra and vegetation in the glacier basin

through pollen analysis and a pollen deposition model was developed. These studies

portrayed the rich pollen assemblage especially conifers in the air catches and surface

samples whereas the samples taken from ice core were found to be relatively poor in pollen

and spore contents. The study highlights the dominance of extra-regional pollen belonging to

conifers along with other broad leaved elements that drifted from low altitude like

alpine/subalpine and temperate zones. Furthermore, the pollen analyses of ice core samples

reflect that the surface sediments are dominated with pollen and spores and thereafter

decrease with the increase in depth. The diatoms encountered in moraines as well as ice cores

are of fresh water origin. Fungal spores are also recovered in almost all samples.

Later on snow, firn, ice moraine and atmospheric catches were also subjected to quantitative

and qualitative analyses employing absolute and relative frequency techniques (Bera, 1989).

The high frequency of conifer pollens in the surface samples and air catches, contrary to the

vegetation in the glacier area, are an outcome of pollen interplay from down below. The data

obtained from the palynological studies proved to be of paramount importance to reconstruct

palaeo-vegetational and palaeo-climatic successions in the alpine and glacier zones during

sub-recent period. The study reflects predominance of extra regional arboreals over local

non-arboreal pollen taxa. This feature could be due to the transportation of pollen from lower

elevation to the tree line zone through upthermic winds. Fluctuations in the values of

nonarboreals could be taken as reference to decipher the microclimate changes, whereas the

arboreal pollen taxa give indication of the macroclimate of the region.

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5.2 Spectral Reflectance Studies

Himalayan Glaciers and snow fields exist in remote and inaccessible areas and locations.

Most of the time, the high passes leading to these areas are blocked due to heavy snow fall so

the availability of satellite remote sensing imagery for such areas is of immense value for

identifying snow and glacier features. Spectral reflectance patterns of the various features of

Chhota Shigri glacier were studied using seven band radiometer in visible and near infrared

range (Dhanju, 1988; Kulkarni & Dhanju, 1988; Kulkarni, 1989) to aid in identifying these

features on satellite imagery. It was found that the ablation zone has about 40 % reflectance

as compared to the winter snow. The highest spectral reflectance of fresh snow which is

debris free has a value of about 0.77 in the spectral range between 433 and 640nm. This type

of clean snow is only found in the highest reaches of the accumulation and so any loss of

information due to sensor saturation will occur only in limited areas. In the lower part of the

glacier where dirty snow is present, the value is half of that of clean snow (Kulkarni &

Dhanju, 1988). The features identified were maximum glacier height, equilibrium line

altitude, snout height, the glacier length, its average gradient and orientation and the river

system into which its melt water drains. The study concluded that the satellite remote sensing

within the dynamic range of sensors can discriminate glacier features like clean snow and

dirty ice.

5.3 Geophysical Investigations

In 1986, an attempt was made to theoretically calculate the ice thickness of the glacier by

generating and interpreting the geophysical potential fields (Bouguer Anomalies) giving an

ice overburden thickness of 92-166m for Chhota Shigri glacier (Kumar et al., 1987). In 1987,

Geophysical investigations were done to study glacier dynamics in Chhota Shigri Glacier

using a La Costa and Romberg Gravimeter Model ‘D’. Gravity observations were carried out

with 34 gravity stations of which 24 were established on the glacier. All the gravity stations

were linked with the top of a huge granitic boulder at glacier base camp. Gravity survey

indicates that the glacier is comparatively thicker on the western side in comparison to the

middle part. The maximum thickness of the glacier on the western side can again be well

correlated with the maximum strain rate on this side. This infers that the glacier valley is

much more inclined or deeper on the western side. High values observed for the ratio of basal

velocity and surface velocity in the ablation area indicates that basal sliding is the major

mechanism for glacier movement in the NNW direction (Purohit et al., 1988).

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Ice thickness calculations indicated an increase from snout towards accumulation zone of the

glacier, while maintaining near uniform thickness across the width. The change in thickness

of ice is rapid in snout zone, gradual in ablation but very gentle in accumulation zone.

Though ice thickness in 1987 was found to be greater than in 1986, the magnitude of change

in thickness can only be correctly estimated by repeat observation in future after a

considerable gap. The bed rock topography under Chhota Shigri glacier closely paralleled the

surface topography. The glacier bed in the mid ablation and snout zones appears to be deeper

near its centre than at the margins, possibly due to the narrowness of the glacier valley and

the accelerated bed rock erosion near the centre than at the margins due to the differential

movement of the glacier. The glacier bed in lower and mid accumulation dips gradually from

North towards South, but maintains uniform level across the width of the glacier, probably

due to the wide valley with low gradient giving the glacier sufficient space to expand

sideward and the hard bedrock minimising basal erosion.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) measurements on Chhota Shigri glacier were carried out in

October 2009 in order to calculate the ice fluxes at different cross sections, the bedrock

topography of the glacier and ultimately the steady state of Chhota Shigri glacier (JNU-

IFCPAR, 2010; Azam, 2010). In order to serve this purpose, few cross sections from lower

ablation zone (4400m asl) to higher ablation zone (4900m asl) of the glacier were selected

and GPR profiling carried out using Common Offset Radar Survey with concurrent

Differential GPS measurements. The present survey was done at a frequency of 4.2-4.5MHz

with antenna length of 20m. Transmitter and receiver were separated by a fixed distance of

20m and moved together along the profiles with a step size of 10m.

The cross sections obtained from GPR measurements reveal a deep valley with maximum ice

thickness higher than 250 m. The ice thickness (at central line of glacier) increases from 124

m at 4400 m a.s.l. to 270 m at 4900 m a.s.l., and is significantly different from that obtained

from gravimetric methods (Dobhal et al., 1995). Even though several cross sections were

surveyed for ice thickness by gravimetric method in 1987-88, they were restricted to the

lower ablation zone, whereas in the recent study by single frequency GPR the upper ablation

zone was also covered. Also the technologies used were different and the surveys were of

preliminary nature. Hence detailed ice thickness measurements on the glacier are needed

using multifrequency GPR technology.

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5.4 Geodetic Investigations

Geodetic investigations were carried out by Survey of India during 1986 and 1987 with the

help of control points established in the valley (Bahuguna, 1987, 1988) . The average rate of
horizontal movement per year in snout region was found to be only 3.7my-1 and was

attributed to the rapid melting rate near the terminus (6.5cmd-1 in July-August 1987). The

average rate of horizontal movement per year, in lower, middle and upper portion of ablation

zone was 20.4m, 32.6m and 42.8m respectively, higher than the rate of movement in snout
zone, but less than in accumulation zone (54 my-1). The thickness of ice and the gradient or

general slope at the base of glacier play an important role in the movement. The rate of

horizontal movement per year on glacier points CP-12, CP-14 and CP-16 (Figure 5.1) located

on eastern lateral moraine near east margin is 12.5m, 17.10m and 21.13m whereas this

movement per year on glacier points GP-7, GP-8 and GP-9 located in the central portion is

14.41m, 21.67m and 23.98m respectively. This is because the central portion of glacier

experiences retarding friction only from the ground below but on the lateral regions there is

friction from both the sides as well as from the base.

The direction of horizontal movement is NNE except at some points where it is NNW. The

trend of rise in height above mean sea level from 0.05m to 0.95m, in the case of all glacier

points in snout zone gives a clear indication of advancement in the glacier surface level. The

trend in ablation zone shows that the magnitude of decrease in height of each glacier point is

not in proportion to the appreciable magnitude of downward horizontal movement indicating

the overall rise in glacier surface level in ablation zone.

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N

0 200 m 600 500m 1000m

Figure 5.1 Planimetric control in Chhota Shigri glacier area during 1987, showing locations
of control points (CP) and glacier points (GP) (Bahuguna, 1988).

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Fluctuations were found in the width across the glacier at few places in snout and ablation

zones. The retreat in relative depths of glacier surface level just along the east margin as

compared to the fixed and stable rocks on side hills near and below the points CP-16, CP-18

and GP-28, has indicated rise of the order of about 0.5m to 0.8m. Similarly, the glacier

surface level just along west margins near and below the points CP-15, CP-17, CP-19 and

CP-21 rose by about 0.7 to 0.35m since September, 1986. The rate of fluctuation in glacier

surface level in ablation zone was higher along the west margin than along the east margin.

The width of lateral moraines along the east and west margins was found advancing inward

by about 5 to 7m in the lower and middle portions of ablation, where as this advance in upper

ablation zone was 2 to 3m only. The marginal increase in relative heights of the lateral

moraines along the east and west margins, throughout in ablation zone was also noticed. The

repeatedly measured width of the rims of few prominent crevasses over the glacier surface in

accumulation zone and upper ablation zone, within the interval of 5 to 10 days, were found to

increase by about 10 to 25cm.

5.5 Investigation for Base Metal Minerals

The moraines were studied by the Geological Wing, Department of Industries, Himachal

Pradesh with special reference to minerals of base metals (Katoch, 1989). Sampling from

debris of moraines was carried out from the confluence of Chhota Shigri meltwater stream

and Chandra River to a height of 4700 m. Chalcopyrite found in the lateral moraines were

followed upstream, and were traceable upto the height of 4700 meters, but could not be

followed above this point due to heavy crevasses in the ice. The quantities found in the

moraines do not indicate any major deposit, but thin veins of this mineral can be expected.

The morainic debris between Chhota Shigri and Bara Shigri streams lying parallel to the

Chandra River was also sampled and some samples of stibnite ore were found associated with

lead and zinc. This mineralization is entirely in the granitic rock and is localized along

fractures and fracture zones that cut these rocks; the mineralization appears to be in the form
of cavity filling deposit of hydrothermal origin. Most of the veins dip at 600 0
to 90 with major

strike being NNE-SSW. The mineralization is restricted to three elevations between 4250 to

4650 meters and each is separated by banded quartzite-sericite schist. These veins are

variably rich in different metallic sulphides along the fracture. Stibnite veins along fractures
trends 100 0
N to 40 E and occurs as radiating crystals. The veins become thin and even

disappear when fracture becomes straight. The veins are well defined and their contact with

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the wall is clear. Detailed investigation of the stibnite deposit needs to be carried out to find

out its economic viability.

Highlights

Palynological studies show transportation of conifer pollen from lower elevations to the

Chhota Shigri glacier catchment by upthermic winds.

Spectral reflectance surveys on Chhota Shigri glacier suggest that it is ideally suited to

delineate glacier morphologic features for field-truthing of remote Sensing observations.

Geodetic investigations indicate that bed rock topography of Chhota Shigri glacier parallels

the ice surface topography.

Geophysical investigations revealed that maximum ice thickness is well correlated with the

maximum strain rate. Recent ice thickness measurements are significantly higher than earlier

estimates possibly due to difference in techniques adopted.

Traces of chalcopyrite and deposits of stibnite were found in a mineralogical investigation of

the lateral moraines.

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6. Summary and Conclusions

The preceding chapters of this status report focused on various aspects viz. morphology,

climate regime, snout fluctuations, mass balance, surface velocity, hydrochemistry,

hydrology, ice thickness, palynology, etc. of Chhota Shigri glacier in the Lahaul-Spiti valley

of Himachal Pradesh, India – a ‘bench mark’ glacier chosen by UNESCO/ICSI in 2002 and

identified by DST as one of the representative glaciers for long term integrated monitoring.

6.1 Current status of research on Chhota Shigri

Chhota Shigri glacier, a 9km long, 15.7km2 o
valley-type glacier located between 32.19 N to

o o o 2
32.28 N and 77.49 E to 77.55 E lies in a 37.7km catchment of which only 47% is

glacierised. The terminus of the glacier is at an elevation of 4050m amsl while the maximum

elevation is 6263m amsl. The entire glacier valley shows well-developed morphologic

features such as moraines, crevasses, glacier till, cirques, glacier tables, snow-clad peaks,

truncated spurs with snow-off faces, hanging valleys, conical and pyramidal peaks,

water channels and screed flows. The medial moraine is represented by prominent

uplifted glacier surfaces that demarcate two ice streams: one coming from the eastern flank

and the other from the western flank. The lower ablation zone of the Chhota Shigri

glacier is covered by surface moraine and debris. Transverse crevasses are distributed all

over the glacier, running almost at right angles to the length of the glacier in E-W direction,

whereas longitudinal crevasses are mainly found in the lower part and sides of the glacier

valley, while radial and marginal crevasses are recognized near the snout of the glacier.

The climate of Chhota Shigri and its adjoining area is typical of monsoon-arid transition zone

where both the summer Asian monsoon and the winter mid-latitude westerlies influence the

precipitation regime. The Chandra River valley where the glacier is situated is drier than the

southern slopes of the Pir Panjal range. This is the leeward effect of the main ridge mostly

oriented W-E preventing part of the monsoon flux from reaching the valley. The precipitation

ranges from 150 to 200cm with lower reaches of the glacier falling in the cold dry valley.

Very limited meteorological data is available for Chhota Shigri glacier and only for short

spells ranging from one week to few weeks at a time. A positive step towards in situ climate

data collection on this bench-mark glacier was accomplished in 2009, when an Automatic

Weather Station was installed at about 4920m amsl. The daily maximum temperature

observed was about 11.8°C and 19.6°C, while minimum temperature was -13.6°C and 0.1°C

on glacier surface and below the glacier terminus respectively. Relative humidity varied

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between 12-99% over the glacier surface.

Lithology of Chhota Shigri glacier valley is dominated by the Central Crystallines, with the

crystalline axis comprised mostly of meso- to ketazonal metamorphites, migmatites and

gneisses. Traces of Chalcopyrite was found in the lateral moraines, while Stibnite associated

with lead and zinc mineralization was found in the granitic rock. Snout position of the

Chhota Shigri has been monitored periodically from 1962 (Survey of India Toposheet of No.

52H/11 & 12), with observations made in 1984 and 1995. Past positions demarcated by

studying the morainic streaks indicate six morainic loops which not only reflect the retreat of

the glacier snout but also past advances.

Mass balance studies in the Chhota Shigri glacier were carried out in two phases: Phase I in

the 1986-1989 and Phase II from 2002 onwards. The summer net balance obtained in 1987

and 1988 were similar while the cumulative specific balance for 1986-1989 was -0.21m weq.

The specific mass balances during 2002-2008 were mostly negative varying from –1.4m weq

(2002/2003 and 2005/2006) to + 0.10 m weq in 2004/2005. Debris cover, orientation and

shading effect of valley slopes were found to be major factors influencing the rate of ablation

on the glacier. Annual mean surface velocity on the Chhota Shigri glacier between 1985 and
1988 was found to be 32.60myr-1, 41.29myr-1 and 37.21myr-1 respectively, while between

2003 and 2007 it was 38.5myr-1, 37myr-1, 36myr-1 and 37.5myr-1 respectively. Although

separated by almost two decades, the results from the two studies show no significant change

in the surfacial velocity pattern of the Chhota Shigri glacier.

Energy balance of the glacier was attempted using three observatories at different altitudes on

the glacier and by dividing the glacier into four altitudinal zones with an altitude interval of

400m. It was found that the albedo values in the ablation zone ranged from 10 – 20% for the

glacier ice and 42% for the firn. In the accumulation area due to fresh snow the albedo values

were found to be high and the contribution from insolation was fairly low and almost negated

by net longwave radiation and latent heat flux, resulting in nil effective melting.

The concentrations of the major ions measured in snow and a shallow ice core indicated
predominantly marine origin of Na+ – + ++
and Cl , while K and Ca were mainly derived from
terrestrial sources whereas Mg++ contributions came from both marine and terrestrial sources.

The available data of melt water chemistry mostly are restricted to July-August and

September. It was observed that supraglacial water has lower concentration of solutes

compared to glacier melt water that comes out of the glacier terminus indicating the

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intermixing of supraglacial and subglacial waters to form solute enriched portal meltwaters.

Meltwaters flowing through subglacial channels become chemically enriched probably by

interacting with basal morainic material.

Using a half-life value of 140 years for 32Si and assuming the average value of 32Si

concentration in the snow precipitation in the Himalayan region to be 0.7dpm103 -1
l , a

radiometric age of 250 years of snout ice was obtained and the average surface ice flow rate
over the past few centuries was calculated to be 28myr-1. Using measured 32Si concentration

in the melt water, the radiometric age of the average melt water has been estimated to be 80

years. This suggests that a mix of at least 55% snow melt and 45% ice melt emerges from the
Chhota Shigri glacier terminus. Based on δ18O variations in a shallow ice core, the snow

accumulation on Chhota Shigri glacier, averaged for the 2 years prior to August 1987 was
calculated as 520kgm-2yr-1.

High and low melt water stream discharges (Q and Q ) occurred between 1530-1900 hrs and
H L

0300-0700 hrs respectively, with daily mean discharges ranging from 6 to 13m3s-1 and Q :Q
H L

at about 1.50. High discharges were observed during night because of the melt storage

characteristics of the glacier; the lag time to the gauging site was estimated at 1-2 hours in

1988 and at 2-3 hours in 1989. Discharge varies directly with temperature and it can explain

about 60% of discharge. Mass balance can help understand the discharge variation, which

was a minimum in 2005 when the Chhota Shigri glacier showed a slightly positive mass

balance, while in 2009 a negative mass balance year, it more than doubled from previous

years, suggesting that glacier melt controls the hydrology of this catchment. In general, the

sediment load increases with discharge. However, no direct relationship could be established

between discharge and sediment transport. Sediment yield of Chhota Shigri glacier stream
was about 529td-1 during August, showing very high denudation rates. The average

suspended sediment yield in a day was estimated to be about 4tkm−2 in 2005, 2006 and 2007,

and about 6tkm−2 in 2003 and 2008 while it was about 9.5tkm−2 in 2004. This high rate of

denudation could be attributed to tectonics and mass movements on steep bare slopes. While

fine sediments dominated the peak load, the falling limb of the seasonal hydrograph showed

increased medium and coarser fraction, pointing to lack of supply of fine sediments.

A non-linear empirical model for the computation of snow and ice melt runoff as a function

of temperature, net solar radiation and albedo was attempted. The observed values of these

parameters for peak ablation period were fitted and a non-linear regression analysis was

performed between observed discharge and meteorological parameters.

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Palynological studies of ice and surrounding surface materials portrayed a rich pollen

assemblage of conifers in the air catches and surface samples whereas ice core samples were

relatively poorer in pollen and spore contents. The study shows the dominance of extra

regional pollen belonging to conifers along with other broad leaved elements probably

resulting from transportation of pollen from lower elevation to the tree line zone through

upthermic winds.

Spectral reflectance studies using a seven band radiometer in visible and near infrared range

showed that the ablation zone has about 40% reflectance as compared to the winter snow. An

attempt was also made to identify various features like snow, ice, debris covered ice, streams,

rocky areas, etc. using spectral reflectance characteristics. AAR also was calculated on the

basis of identifying the snow line.

Strain measurements showed a thinning of the glacier in the middle in the 1980s. Gravity

observations showed that the ice thickness significantly increases from North to South, i.e.

from snout to accumulation zone, though fairly uniform across the width of the glacier. The

melting at the snout is highest and this leads to glacier movement. The average rate of

horizontal movement per year, in lower, middle and upper ablation zones is 20.4m, 32.6m

and 42.8m respectively, increasing further in the accumulation zone. However, bed-rock

surface erosion by glacier movement might be more pronounced near the centre than at the

margins due to the differential movement of the glacier.

Ongoing research on this benchmark glacier begun in 2002 initially focused on annual mass

balance monitoring and has lately been augmented with winter mass balance studies, apart

from periodic ice surface velocity and meltwater discharge measurements. Energy and

hydrological balances, hydrochemical studies and a preliminary attempt at glacier ice

thickness are being carried out at the moment.

6.2 Limitations and gaps

A large volume of multi-disciplinary data has been generated over the last three decades on

Chhota Shigri glacier. However, there is need to exercise caution while using some of these

data as the methodologies, technology and understanding of glacier dynamics have changed

over time and because of the short duration of observations warranted by the expedition mode

in which many of these were carried out. For example, the annual terminus retreat rates

obtained from various studies show significant differences in the retreat pattern ranging from

-1 -1
5.9myr (GSI) to 53.3myr for various time periods within the last 50 years. Mass balance

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monitoring in the 1980s had two limitations viz. the exclusion of tributary glaciers and the

inability of metallic stakes drilled 2.0-2.5m into the glacier ice to reveal the upper limit of

annual ablation. Although the glacier is reported to have undergone negative balance

conditions during both the observation periods, the glacier area reported in the studies of

1980s is significantly smaller than that mapped by remote sensing methods in 2000s. The

terminus positions and aerial extent was compared on repeat imageries between 1972 and
2006. Average terminus retreat of 25myr-1 was inferred, along with loss of glaciated area of

about 19.5%. Another study showed a larger glaciated area of 16.5km2 in 2005. This

difference can be attributed to the earlier studies that were restricted to the main glacier

tongue and raises problems for inter – comparison of data sets.

During 1987, 1988 and 1989 ELA was found to be 4650m, 4700m and 4840m respectively

with corresponding AAR value of 73%, 59% and 65% respectively. The ELA for 2002/2003,

2003/2004, 2004/2005, 2005/2006, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 was

found to be 5170m, 5165m, 4855m, 5185m, 5150m, 5120m, 4980m and 4930m respectively

with corresponding AAR value of 31%, 31%, 74%, 29%, 34%, 47%, 63% and70%

respectively.

Scarcity of meteorological data for the Chhota Shigri glacier basin is a limitation in

establishing definite climate-discharge relationships. Available data is also insufficient to

arrive at definitive conclusions regarding variability in the chemical behavior of Chhota

Shigri glacier. The studies spanning more than two decades suggest a very high variability in

solute concentration over years and seasons. Most of this variability could be explained in

terms of dilution effect because the sampling times were different in various studies. But

even when the samples were for comparable time periods, there are wide variations which

can be explained by differing climatic conditions at the sampling time or limitations of

different methodologies adopted for analysis.

In addition to the above-mentioned limitations, there are a few gap areas that need to be

addressed to further the understanding of climate-glacier-lithosphere interactions on this

benchmark glacier. Some of these pertain to reconstruction of palaeo-climate and paleo-

glaciation interactions during the Quaternary, the influence of atmospheric brown cloud and

black carbon on glacier melt/recession, quantifying the relative influence of Asian monsoon

and western disturbances on precipitation and accumulation, mapping the glacier

hydrological system and the characterization of ecological systems that correspond to various

extreme physical environments prevalent on this glacier.

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6.3 Prospects for future research

In light of the current status of research and the gaps and limitations that exist, a few focal

areas are suggested to carry forward the research thrust to its logical conclusion. The first of

these is to gain an understanding of the microclimate of the Chhota Shigri glacier and how

the exchange of mass and energy between glacier surface and atmosphere actually works.

The glacier boundary layer plays an important role in controlling the dynamics and health of

a glacier. The knowledge of the micro-meteorological processes on a network of index

glaciers including Chhota Shigri, Hamta, Patseo among others will ultimately make it

possible to develop mass balance models for the Western Himalaya. With these models the

sensitivity of the balance rate to climate change can be studied. In the light of global climatic

changes bringing about possible change in glacier hydrological systems, there is urgent need

of multi-seasonal long term monitoring of chemical parameters of glacial ice, snow and melt-

waters that need to be corroborated with glacial sediment chemistry.

The supraglacial, englacial and subglacial environments may differ vastly in terms of their

water content, nutrient abundance, redox potential, ionic strength, rock-water contact,

pressure, solar radiation and pH conditions. This remarkable physical diversity means that

glaciers provide an ideal opportunity to draw the ecologies of ice in all its forms into one

single field-scale system. This potential need to be tapped with a glacier-scale perspective of

the physical, biogeochemical and microbiological characteristics of glacial ecosystems.

Apart from the above foci of research, the source and age determination of glacier ice and

portal melt waters, subglacial hydrology, delineation of internal structures, base rock

topography and estimation of ice volume through detailed multi-frequency GPR surveys,

investigation into the thermal structure of glacier ice, impact of aerosols and black carbon on

glacier, palaeo-climatic investigations, glaciological modelling, etc. need to be taken up for

strengthening the long-term integrated monitoring of this bench mark glacier on the

monsoon-arid transition zone of the Indian Himalaya. These studies require a multi-

disciplinary approach and needs inputs and involvement of specialists from diverse fields of

research. It is hoped that this status report will motivate institutions and specialized research

teams to join hands to make this cherished goal a reality.

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Inside Back Cover
Members of Expert Committee

1. Dr. Rasik Ravindra, National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research, Goa. – Chairman

2. Dr. Deepak Srivastava, Centre for Glaciology, WIHG, Dehradun. – Member

3. Shri. D.R. Sikka, Mausam Vihar, New Delhi. -Member

4. Prof. J. Srinivasan, CAOS, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. -Member

5. Dr. R.K. Midha, Noida. -Member

6. Dr. A.K. Tangri, Remote Sensing Application Centre – U.P. Lucknow -Member

7. Dr. Anil V. Kulkarni, Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad
[Presently at Divecha Centre for Climate Change,
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore] -Member

8. Dr. Arabinda Mitra, Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, New Delhi
[Presently at Department of Science & Technology, New Delhi] -Member

9. Dr. Navin Juyal, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad -Member

10. Director, Snow & Avalanche Study Establishment (DRDO), Chandigarh -Member

11. Director, Glaciology Division, Geological Survey of India, Lucknow -Member

12. Director, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun -Member

13. Representative of the Ministry of Earth Science, New Delhi -Member

14. Dr. M. Prithviraj, SERC, Department of Science & Technology,
New Delhi Member Secretary
up to April 2010

15. Dr. P. Sanjeeva Rao, SERC, Department of Science & Technology,
New Delhi Member Secretary
from May 2010

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Members of Expert Committee

1. Dr. Rasik Ravindra, National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research, Goa. – Chairman

2. Dr. Deepak Srivastava, Centre for Glaciology WIHG, Dehradun. – Member

3. Shri. D.R. Sikka, Mausam Vihar, New Delhi. -Member

4. Prof. J. Srinivasan, CAOS, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. -Member

5. Dr. R.K. Midha, Noida . -Member

6. Dr. A.K. Tangri, Remote Sensing Application Centre – U.P. Lucknow -Member

7. Dr. Anil V. Kulkarni, Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad
[Presently at Divecha Centre for Climate Change,
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore] -Member

8. Dr. Arabinda Mitra, Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, New Delhi
[Presently at Department of Science & Technology, New Delhi] -Member

9. Dr. Navin Juyal, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad -Member

10. Director, Snow & Avalanche Study Establishment (DRDO), Chandigarh -Member

11. Director, Glaciology Division, Geological Survey of India, Lucknow -Member

12. Director, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun -Member

13. Representative of the Ministry of Earth Science, New Delhi -Member

14. Dr. M. Prithviraj, SERC, Department of Science & Technology,
New Delhi Member Secretary
up to April 2010

15. Dr. P. Sanjeeva Rao, SERC, Department of Science & Technology,
New Delhi Member Secretary
from May 2010