Science & Tech

ISRO’s Findings on Glacial Lake Dynamics in the Himalaya

  • ISRO satellite photographs reveal a rise in the size of Gepang Gath Lake, despite growing worries about climate change.
  • Gepang Gath Lake (one of the largest glacial lakes in the Chandra basin) is located in the Western Indian Himalaya near the Gepan Gath glacier’s terminal.

What are Glacial Lakes?

  • Glacial lakes are pools of water that originate in depressions on glaciers’ surfaces or moraines left behind by retreating glaciers. Glacial lakes were divided into four basic types depending on how they formed:  
    • Moraine-dammed, 
    • Ice-dammed, 
    • Erosion, and 
    • Other glacial lakes.
    • The bulk of the increasing lakes are moraine-dammed (307), followed by Erosion (265), other (96), and ice-dammed (8) glacial lakes.
    • Glacial lakes emerge as meltwater accumulates from melting glacier ice. As glaciers travel, they create depressions in the terrain, which can fill with water to produce lakes.
      • When glaciers recede, they leave behind moraines that can function as natural dams, trapping meltwater and creating lakes.
  • Characteristics:
    • Sizes vary according to the glacier’s size and activity.
    • Found in alpine and arctic places where glaciers exist.
    • Melting glacial ice, precipitation, and runoff serve as the principal sources of water. 
  • Significance of Glacial Lakes:
  • Glacial lakes have an important role in controlling water flow in glacier-fed rivers, especially during the dry season.
  • Provides home for unusual aquatic animals that have evolved to cold, high-altitude conditions.
  • Contributes to landscape evolution by forming landforms such as cirques and tarns.
  • Present Ecological Challenges:
    • Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) are the abrupt discharge of water from glacial lakes that can pose substantial risks to downstream towns and infrastructure. Take the Chamoli disaster, for example.
    • Glacial lakes may rapidly develop as glaciers melt, increasing the danger of flooding and landslides in nearby regions.

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