Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2023-522
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2023-522
05 Feb 2024
 | 05 Feb 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

A comprehensive rock glacier inventory for Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, western Himalaya, India – Baseline for the permafrost research

Imtiyaz Ahmad Bhat, Irfan Rashid, RAAJ Ramsankaran, Argha Banerjee, and Saurabh Vijay

Abstract. The prevalent climate warming across the mountain regions worldwide has exacerbated the snow melt, glacier recession and permafrost thawing that is impacting the hydrological cycle. The rock glaciers, a manifestation of ice-rich permafrost, could be regionally important for sustaining the streamflow, especially in the lean season in the Himalaya. Several rock glacier inventories have been developed for high-mountain areas worldwide. However, there are sporadic studies that have characterized rock glaciers in the Himalaya. In this study, a comprehensive rock glacier inventory has been generated for the western Himalayan regions of Jammu-Kashmir and trans-Himalayan Ladakh spread over six mountain ranges utilizing optical satellite images from Google Earth and Sentinel 2A. The inventory has characterized each rock glacier with 22 attributes following the guidelines of the International Permafrost Association (IPA). The inventory contains 5492 rock glaciers (4973 intact and 519 relict) with a total area of 573 km2 and an average area of 0.1 km2. The highest number of rock glaciers (n = 1772) were found in the Zanskar range and the lowest (n = 311) were found in the Pir Panjal range. The majority of rock glaciers (~83 %) have a talus origin, and the remaining ~17 % have a glacier origin. The inventory reports 4756 tongue-shaped and 736 lobate rock glaciers.  The average Potential Incoming Solar Radiation (PISR) was observed to be 511 (kWH m-2). The rock glaciers are located between the elevation range of 3301 m asl and 5605 m asl with 63 % of these having a north- or northeast- or northwest-facing aspect. The Mean Annual Air Temperature (MAAT) and precipitation of the rock glaciers range from −8 °C to 8 °C (mean −4 °C) and 71 mm to 1135 mm (mean 328 mm), respectively. The rock glacier inventory provides direct evidence of the presence of permafrost in this ecologically sensitive region and provides a lower bound on the elevation of the permafrost. This inventory shall serve as a baseline for the future hydrological impacts of permafrost and its response to regional climate change. The rock glacier inventory is publicly available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10559297 (Bhat et al., 2024).

Imtiyaz Ahmad Bhat, Irfan Rashid, RAAJ Ramsankaran, Argha Banerjee, and Saurabh Vijay

Status: open (until 21 Mar 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2023-522', Wilfried Haeberli, 17 Feb 2024 reply
  • CC1: 'Comment on essd-2023-522', Sheikh Nawaz Ali, 22 Feb 2024 reply
Imtiyaz Ahmad Bhat, Irfan Rashid, RAAJ Ramsankaran, Argha Banerjee, and Saurabh Vijay

Data sets

Rock glacier inventory for Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, western Himalaya, India Imtiyaz Ahmad Bhat, Irfan Rashid, RAAJ Ramsankaran, Argha Banerjee, and Saurabh Vijay https://zenodo.org/doi/10.5281/zenodo.10559297

Imtiyaz Ahmad Bhat, Irfan Rashid, RAAJ Ramsankaran, Argha Banerjee, and Saurabh Vijay

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Short summary
A comprehensive rock glacier inventory (n = 5492) has been generated through manual delineation in a GIS environment for the western Himalayan region. The inventory has characterized each rock glacier with 22 attributes following the standard protocols. This inventory shall serve as a baseline for the future research related to rock glacier dynamics, their hydrological contribution and response to climate change.
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