Assessing the status of glaciers in part of the Chandra basin, Himachal HimalayaA multiparametric approach

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This study investigates the change in multiple glacier parameters of three valley-type glaciers (Sakchum (SC), Chhota Shigri (CS), and Bara Shigri (BS)) located in Chandra basin, Himachal Himalaya, sharing the same climatic regime, and assesses the control of nonclimatic factors on wholesome glacier response. Multitemporal satellite remote sensing data from Landsat-TM/ETM/OLI (1993–2014), and Terra-ASTER (2002–2014) along with an SRTM digital elevation model were used for extraction of the glacier parameters. Results show that while SC and BS retreated (SC10.65 ± 2.52 m/y; BS15.51 ± 2.52 m/y) and lost area (SC0.49 ± 0.0032 km2, BS1.18 ± 0.0032 km2), the CS remained relatively stable (retreat rate4.06 ± 2.52 m/y, area loss0.19 ± 0.0032 km2) during 1993–2014. However, results of surface ice velocities (SIV) change (SC24.41%, CS21.60%, and BS28.49%) and surface elevation change (SC− 1.22 m/y, CS− 0.91 m/y and BS− 1.21 m/y) suggest a comparable slowing down and surface lowering from 2002 to 2014. Debris cover also varied substantially (SC30.25%, CS11.96%, BS19.61%) on these glaciers. Results reveal that higher retreat/deglaciation of glaciers was associated with higher altitudinal range, slow SIV in lower ablation zones (LAZ), and glacier hypsometry. Debris cover on glaciers was found to be controlled by slope, higher deglaciation rates, higher SIV in the upper ablation zone (UAZ) coupled with lower SIV in LAZ and surface lowering. Glacier SIV was primarily governed by slope gradient, differential surface lowering, and size of accumulation zone (ACZ). The SIV results confirm the presence of stagnant zones in the lower ablations of SC (< 1 km upstream) and BS (< 6 km upstream) and a major SIV dropdown in the UAZ (SC34.48%, BS37.35%), indicating the expansion of stagnant zones farther up. Glacier surface lowering seemed to be influenced by ice-flux, changing spatial distribution of debris cover, presence of supraglacial lakes, and ice cliffs bordering them. Melting around supraglacial lakes and backwasting of ice cliffs may be the prime reasons behind intense mass loss observed in the stagnant zone of the Bara Shigri glacier, where surface lowering was ~ 32% higher than glacier-wide thinning. Differential surface lowering in glaciers reduced the surface gradient and hence the SIV. Also, rapid surface gradient changes and SIV dropdown in the Sakchum glacier indicate possible development of supraglacial lakes on it in the future. Interestingly, despite close proximity, SC, CS, and BS demonstrate three distinct ablation patterns, reemphasizing the role of nonclimatic factors. Overall, the study states that mutual variation of glacier parameters together with nonclimatic factors exercise a great control on glacier response.




Garg, P. K., Shukla, A., Tiwari, R. K., & Jasrotia, A. S. (2017). Assessing the status of glaciers in part of the Chandra basin, Himachal HimalayaA multiparametric approach. Geomorphology, 284, 99–114.

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