By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 28, 2022, 14:30

The recent glacier disaster in Uttarakhand has again brought forward the need to realise the importance of Glaciers to our environment. What are glaciers? How are they affected by climate change? What are the threats to them? These are some of the few questions to answer the whole background of glaciers and the urgent need to preserve them. Let's understand one by one:

Recently, India has observed a sudden disaster in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state. As per the Hindu, The sudden flood due to melting glaciers on Sunday afternoon in the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga and Alaknanda rivers triggered widespread panic and large-scale devastation in the high mountain areas.

What are Glaciers?

Glaciers are massive ice masses that shift due because of their own mass. It originates in regions when snow accumulation exceeds ablation over a long period of time.

  • They may usually be found in snowy areas.
  • This world's biggest freshwater basin spans almost 10% of the planet's land surface.
  • A glacier can be classified as either a Mountain Glacier (Alpine Glaciers) or a Continental Glacier (Ice Sheets) based on its topography and location
  • Firnification is the process of compacting snow into glacial firn (thick, grainy ice).

Types of Glaciers

  • Alpine Glaciers (They are formed on mountain slopes and typically flow downside through the basin)
  • Ice Sheets (They normally create wide domes that can extend out in all directions)
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Glaciers in India

India has the following important glaciers:

Name of the GlaciersMountain rangeState
Batura GlacierKarakoram Mountain RangeJammu & Kashmir
Khurdopin GlacierKarakoram Mountain RangeJammu & Kashmir
Hispar GlacierKarakoram Mountain RangeJammu & Kashmir
Biafo GlacierKarakoram Mountain RangeJammu & Kashmir
Baltoro GlacierKarakoram Mountain RangeJammu & Kashmir
Chomolungma glacierKarakoram Mountain RangeJammu & Kashmir
Godwin AustenKarakoramLadakh
Trango GlacierKarakoramLadakh
Chong KumdanKarakoramLadakh
Diamir GlacierKarakoram Mountain RangeJammu & Kashmir
Siachen GlacierKarakoram Mountain RangeJammu & Kashmir
Bara Shigri GlacierPir Panjal Range of the Inner Himalayas.Himachal Pradesh
Chhota Shigri GlacierPir PanjalHimachal Pradesh
Sonapani GlacierPir PanjalHimachal Pradesh
Rakhiot GlacierPir PanjalLadakh
Gangotri GlacierHimalayasUttarkashi, Uttarakhand
Bandarpunch GlacierThe western edge of the high Himalayan rangeUttarakhand
Milam GlacierTrishul peak of PithoragarhUttarakhand
Pindari glacierUpper reaches of the Kumaon HimalayasNanda Devi, Uttarakhand
Kafni GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Kalabaland GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Kedar Bamak GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Meola GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Namik GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Panchchuli GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Ralam GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Sona GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Satopanth GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Sunderdhunga GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Dokriani GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Chorabari GlacierKumaon-GarhwalUttarakhand
Zemu GlacierEastern Himalaya Located on Kanchenjunga peakSikkim
Kanchenjunga GlacierEastern HimalayaSikkim

Importance of Glaciers

  • Indicators of global warming: Rapidly increasing melting of Glaciers, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, other glacial disasters, etc. are great indicators of alarming worldwide effects of global warming
  • Earth's Air conditioner: The Glaciers largely regulates the temperature of Earth which is imperative for the existence of mankind and other lives on earth.

Issues and threats of Glaciers

  • Increasing Global temperature: The major reason for diminishing health of glaciers. As the temperature rises, it results in the melting of glaciers ice and rising sea levels.
  • Less precipitation: Precipitation helps in the restoration of glaciers. Over time, a decline has been observed in precipitation in hilly mountain ranges, ultimately causing a threat to glaciers.

The way forward: Individual solutions

Though Governments and organisations worldwide are actively engaging in the prevention of glacier disasters and improving the condition, the efforts of every individual count. We, as individuals, must take initiative and inspire others to curb global warming. Steps like a prudent use of electricity/energy, plantation, opting for eco-friendly solutions, arranging awareness camps, etc. can help in reducing global warming ultimately saving the glaciers.

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FAQs on Glaciers

Q.1. Which is the longest glacier in India?

Located in the Himalayas-Karakoram region, India has the Siachen Glacier is the longest glacier. It is followed by the Gangotri Glacier.

Q.2. Which is the largest glacier in the world?

Lambert Fisher Glacier, Antarctica is the largest glacier in the world.

Q.3. How are Glaciers formed?

Glaciers are formed by a process called firnification. It is the process of compacting snow into glacial firn (thick, grainy ice).

Q.4. What are the major causes of Glacial disasters?

The rapid increase in global warming is the biggest cause of Glacial disasters.