Global Warming: Isro images show Gangotri glacier receded 1.5km in 30 yrs

BANGALORE: As big global players play the game of negotiations, and as the opposition wakes up to the implications of India’s green plan as announced on Thursday, the Indian Space Research Organisation has come up with an alarming figure – the Gangotri glacier has receded by 1.5km in the past 30 years.

The fact that the glacier has been receding isn’t new. In fact, in the last decade, it has receded by 15-20 metres (although the pace has slowed down in recent years), Isro’s latest figure dramatically brings out the extent of glacial melt, caused possibly by global warming.

Isro’s director of Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, Dr R R Navalgund told TOI that satellite imagery documents a 1.5-km retreat of the Gangotri glacier in the past 30 years. The satellite imagery has also captured that Alpine vegetation has now started growing at a higher altitude than it used to a few decades ago.

While the retreat of glaciers was a very controversial issue recently, after environment minister Jairam Ramesh released his discussion paper on glaciers that also alleged that glaciers were not melting because of climate change. Navalgund echoed the sentiments of MoEF on the issue.

“We have looked at snowy glaciers, some of them in the past 20 years, specially the ones at lower latitudes and altitudes, have retreated. It is difficult to say whether it is due to global climate change. It could be a part of the inter-glacial period and other related phenomena,” he said.

The documentation of coral reefs have also shown bleaching across the coastline. UNEP had also recently declared that coral reefs, which support the majority of marine life, will be the first casualty of climate change. Isro data reiterates that the reefs around the Indian sub-continent are facing maximum impact – not so much in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but in other parts.

Navalgund said there was no quantitative analysis yet on the impact on agriculture. “Agricultural simulations are too less to make any quantitative analysis,” he said.

Asked about the upcoming Copenhagen negotiations, Navalgund said he has given all the data that Isro has gathered from its satellite images to the environment minister a month ago. “To understand the impact of climate change for India, baseline data is very important. India did not have a scientific, accurate database of baseline data. Now we need to put those down so that later, we have a valid document to fall back on,” he said.

Very soon, other countries can also access data on carbon sink from Isro. The Oceansat, that continuously monitors the ocean colour, helps in analyzing productivity in the oceans. This is useful in measuring the carbon sink in the oceans. Many countries have given their letter of intent to use this satellite.

From TOI

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