DNA Explainer: What caused the Uttarakhand glacier burst? Here’s some probable reasons

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Enviromentalists have claimed that climate change led to the burst of a part of the Nanda Devi glacier at Joshimath in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand on Sunday (February 8).

Speaking to IANS, an Assistant Professor at IIT Indore said that no glacial lake was visible near the region in satellite and Google Earth images and it is likely that there may be a water pocket, or lake inside the glacier that may have bursted causing the deluge in nearby river.

“There is no doubt that global warming has resulted in the warming of the region. Climate change-driven erratic weather patterns like increased snowfall and rainfall, and warmer winters have led to the melting point of a lot of snow falling. The thermal profile of ice is increasing…. where earlier the temperature of ice ranged from minus six to minus 20 degree Celsius, it is now minus two, making it more susceptible to melting,” IANS quoted Mohd. Farooq Azam as saying.

Another scientist, Anjal Prakash, who is the Research Director and Adjunct Associate Professor at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, said the breaking of glacier looks very much like a climate change event. “The IPCC’s Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate reports that climate change has altered the frequency and magnitude of natural hazards. The scientists reported with medium confidence that in some regions, snow avalanches involving wet snow have increased, while the rain on snow floods have also increased at lower elevations in springs,” Prakash told IANS.

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has said in its recent report that the temperature is increasing in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region and this increase in temperature along with global warming will have further impact in the Himalayan region.

“We do not have the data now to give you information on what has caused the avalanche in Chamoli district but what we know, prima facie, is that this looks very much like a climate change event as the glaciers are melting due to global warming,” he added.

At least 15 people have been killed and over 150 are feared missing, after a glacier burst in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday. The outburst of the glacier increased the water level in the Alaknanda river system which in turn washed away hydroelectric stations and several small bridges. The bursting of glacier forced the authorities to evacuate low-lying vllages.

Several teams of national and state disaster response teams have been deployed to take care of relief and rescue operations. Teams from the ITBP are also working to open up the tunnels where several people are feared trapped. The Army has sent six columns to assist in the rescue operations.

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