An unnamed glacier changed its course in Himalayas due to climate change and tectonics

New Delhi: Indian researchers studying an unnamed glacier in one of the less explored regions in the upper Kali Ganga valley in India have reported that the glacier had abruptly changed its main course.

A team of scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun, Uttarakhand found that the unnamed NE moving glacier had been abruptly truncated and forced to move towards SE. It is for the first time that such change in course has been reported from a Himalayan glacier, and the researchers have attributed this to the accumulated influence of both climate and tectonics.

The WIHG team observed that the 5 km long unnamed glacier, which covered around 4 square km area in Kuthi Yankti valley, a Tributary of Kali River, has abruptly changed its main course. It moved, truncated, and ultimately merged with the adjacent glacier named Sumzurkchanki as a result of tectonic forcing during the time between Last Glacial Maxima and Holocene. It is one of the unique behaviors of the glacier, and no such observation has so far been reported on this type of glacier kinematics.

The study also opened the doors for a new approach in glacier studies, particularly focused on the course change and evolution of new landforms formed by glacial-tectonic interplay. The study strongly suggested that the Himalayas is an active mountain range and highly fragile where tectonics and climate play a critical role.

Based on remote sensing and an old survey map, the study assessed that the glacier had been affected by the active fault and climate change. Tectonic activity and change in climatic conditions had changed the course and morphology of this glacier. An active fault produced a fault scarp that measures about 250 m in height with a northerly dip. The fault trace is 6.2 km in length and trends towards NW-SE. This study based on the tectonically sculptured unique glacier landform was published in the ‘Geoscience Journal’.

Image courtesy of Photo: Dr Manish Mehta

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