Articles written in Journal of Earth System Science

    • Chemical characterisation of meltwater draining from Gangotri Glacier, Garhwal Himalaya, India

      Virendra Bahadur Singh A L Ramanathan Jose George Pottakkal Parmanand Sharma Anurag Linda Mohd Farooq Azam C Chatterjee

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      A detailed analytical study of major cations (Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+) and anions (SO$^{2−}_{4}$, HCO$^{−}_{3}$, Cl, NO$^{−}_{3}$) of meltwater draining from Gangotri Glacier was carried out to understand major ion chemistry and to get an insight into geochemical weathering processes controlling hydrochemistry of the glacier. In the meltwater, the abundance order of cations and anions varied as follows: Ca2+ > Mg2+ > K+ > Na+ and SO$^{2−}_{4}$ > HCO$^{−}_{3}$ < Cl > NO$^{−}_{3}$, respectively. Calcium and magnesium are dominant cations while sulphate and bicarbonate are dominant anions. Weathering of rocks is the dominant mechanism controlling the hydrochemistry of drainage basin. The relative high contribution of (Ca+Mg) to the total cations (TZ+), high (Ca+Mg)/(Na+K) ratio (2.63) and low (Na+K)/TZ+ ratio (0.29) indicate the dominance of carbonate weathering as a major source for dissolved ions in the glacier meltwater. Sulphide oxidation and carbonation are the main proton supplying geochemical reactions controlling the rock weathering in the study area. Statistical analysis was done to identify various factors controlling the dissolved ionic strength of Gangotri Glacier meltwater.

    • Role of debris cover to control specific ablation of adjoining Batal and Sutri Dhaka glaciers in Chandra Basin (Himachal Pradesh) during peak ablation season

      Parmanand Sharma Lavkush K Patel Rasik Ravindra Ajit Singh K Mahalinganathan Meloth Thamban

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      As part of the on-going annual mass balance measurements on Batal and Sutri Dhaka glaciers, observationswere made during peak ablation (August–September) season in 2013 to understand the responseof debris covered and clean-ice (debris free) glacier surface to melting processes. Though, both the Bataland Sutri Dhaka glaciers have almost similar geographical disposition, Batal shows extensive debriscover (90% of the ablation area), while the latter is free from debris (only 5% of the ablation area). Thethickness of debris in Batal glacier is inversely proportional to altitude, whereas Sutri Dhaka mostlyexperienced debris-free zone except snout area. Observation revealed that the vertical gradient of ablationrate in ablation area is contrastingly opposite in these two glaciers, reflecting significant control ofdebris thickness and their distribution over glacier surface on the ablation rates. While different thickness(2–100 cm) of debris have attenuated melting rates up to 70% of total melting, debris cover of 2 cm thickness has accelerated melting up to 10% of the total melting. Estimated melt ratio revealsthat about 90% of the ablation area has experienced inhibited melting in Batal glacier, whereas only lessthan 5% ablation area of Sutri Dhaka has undergone inhibited melting. Comparison of topographicalmaps of 1962 with successive satellite images of the area demonstrates a terminus retreat of 373 ± 33.5 mand 579 ± 33.5 m for Batal and Sutri Dhaka glaciers for the period 1962–2013, respectively.

    • Spatio-temporal variability of snow water equivalent over the Vestre Broggerbreen and Feiringbreen glaciers, Ny-Alesund, Svalbard

      Lavkush Patel Parmanand Sharma Meloth Thamban

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      Snow water equivalent (SWE) is important for understanding the hydrological significance of glaciers. In this study, the spatial and temporal variability in SWE and its impact over the Vestre Broggerbreen and Feiringbreen glaciers around Ny-Alesund in Svalbard (high Arctic) were investigated in the early snow season for the period 2012–2017. The physical properties like depth and density were measured directly in the field and spatial characteristics curvature, slope and aspect were extracted from the digital elevation model. The Vestre Broggerbreen (4.1 km$^{2}$) is a NE flowing glacier, situated around 3 km SW to Ny-Alesund village while the Feiringbreen (7.5 km$^{2}$) is a SW flowing glacier, situated around 14 km NE across the Kongsfjorden. The SWE for the studied period (2012–2017) varied from 141 to 1188 mm. The significant (R$^{2}$ = 0.97) correlation indicated a possible control of snow depth over SWE compared to altitude (R$^{2}$ = 0.65) and other spatial characteristics. The glaciers have experienced negative balance and lost a significant amount of ice ($\sim$4 m.w.e.) since 2012. The observations suggest that the increased liquid precipitation and temperature in the early snow season have reduced SWE over both these valley glaciers. The reduced SWE has also contributed to decreases in the mass balance of these glaciers.

    • Water discharge and suspended sediment dynamics in the Chandra River, Western Himalaya


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      Glacier systems are important components of the hydrological cycle and a major source of meltwater and sediment flux that controls the river ecology, water quality, and hydropower generation in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR). Thus, understanding short- and long-term changes in water and suspended sediment (SS) dynamics is crucial in highly sensitive pro-glacial Himalayan Rivers. In the present study, the Chandra River basin in Western Himalaya was chosen to study river discharge, SS transport dynamics, physical erosion rate, and their governing factors for the 2017 melting season (May–September). The daily mean water discharge and SS concentration in the Chandra River was 260.7 m$^{3}$ s$^{-1}$ and 775.5 mgL$^{-1}$ with maximum discharge and SS flux in the month of July. The air temperature showed significant relationship with the river discharge ($R^{2}$= 0.67; n = 156; p <0.001), which in turn controlled the SS export in the basin ($R^{2}$ =0.86; n = 130; p <0.001). An anticlockwise sediment-discharge hysteresis during peak flow conditions suggest exhausted sediments or large distance of sediment transport (>100 km) from the upper glacierized region to the end of the basin. Statistical analysis of SS particle size showed poorly sorted immature grains with a dominance of silt particles (85%), followed by sand (8.5%) and clay (6.5%). The SS estimates revealed a total suspended sediment yield of 1285 tons km$^{-2}$ yr$^{-1}$ and physical erosion rate of 0.47 mm yr$^{-1}$. Considering the socio-economic importance of the Himalayan region, the present study will help to evaluate the water and sediment budget of the Chandra River, Western Himalaya and to establish their relationship to the meteorological conditions in the basin.


      $\bullet$The total water discharge and suspended sediment flux during ablation period (May–September 2017) in the Chandra River were 3536 MCM and 3 million tons.

      $\bullet$Overall, the suspended sediment were composed of silt size particles (85%) followed by sand (8.5%) and clay size (6.5+%) particles.

      $\bullet$The suspended sediment estimates revealed a total suspended sediment yield of 1285 tons km$^{3}$ yr$^{-1}$ and physical erosion rate of 0.47 mm yr$^{-1}$

      $\bullet$ This study will be useful in understanding the SS cycling from the Himalayan region and to build robust models for future projections.

    • Glacier area changes and its relation to climatological trends over Western Himalaya between 1971 and 2018


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      Understanding the climatic complexity and its consequences on glacier health are of critical importance for the health of the Himalayan glacier and its contribution to the water budget. In this study, satellite datasets are used to estimate the glacier area loss, snow cover variability, and reanalysis data for climatic trends for four glacierised basins (Chandra, Bhaga, Miyar, and Parvati) of the Western Himalaya. In total, 257 glaciers covering a glacierised area of 1306 km$^2$, having a mean altitude of 5200 m asl, and an average slope of 18°, were analyzed using Corona (1971) and Sentinel (2018) satellite data. These glaciers have experienced a significant glacier area loss rate (0.2 km$^2$a${-1}$) and an increase in the number of glaciers on account of fragmentation. Snow cover estimate during 2000–2019 using MODIS data showed no significant change or a slight decrease in snow cover area during the last two decades. However, the ERA Interim reanalysis data revealed a systematic decrease in precipitation, an increase in temperature and an increase in liquid precipitation over the region during 1979–2018. The increased liquid precipitation possibly contributed to the faster melting of the snow and ice and consequently affected the glaciers’health. The observed glacier fragmentation and glacier mass loss over the five decades and enhanced rainfall activity revealed a significant influence of climatic changes over the glacierised region in Western Himalaya.


      $\bullet$ Estimated glacier area loss and glacier fragmentation over the Chandra, Bhaga, Miyar, and Parvati basins of the Western Himalaya revealed a significant loss of glacier area and increased fragmentation during 1971 and 2018.

      $\bullet$ Comparison with climatological data from 1979 to 2018 showed a clear impact of climatic variability over the studied glaciers across the four basins.

      $\bullet$ The snow cover during 2000–2018 has shown a significant interannual variability, with a slightly increasing trend during the period, controlled by the Western Disturbances.

      $\bullet$ The consequences of decreased snow accumulation and increased liquid precipitation over the glacierised catchments of Western Himalaya have been highlighted.

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