Change in course of Himalayan glacier can help to understand the glacial-tectonic interaction

What is the News?

Indian scientists studying an unnamed glacier have reported that the glacier had abruptly changed its main course. This is for the first time that such a change in course has been reported in a Himalayan glacier.

About the study
Source: PIB

Scientists were observing a 5 km long unnamed glacier, which covered around 4 sq km area in Kuthi Yankti valley (Kuthi Yankti river is a tributary of Kali river).

This glacier abruptly changed its main course and ultimately merged with the adjacent glacier named Sumzurkchanki.

Scientists have attributed this change to climate change and tectonic movements.

Example: The recent disaster in Rishi Ganga is an example where the rock mass on which the glacier was sitting gradually became fragile due to weathering, percolation of meltwater in joints, crevasses, freezing and thawing, snowfall, overloading, and gradually operating tectonic forces forcing rocks to mechanical disintegration. With due course of time, the glacier detached from the source rock. 

Hence, this clearly suggests that the Himalaya is an active mountain range and highly fragile, where tectonics and climate play a critical role.

What is the significance of this study?

Firstly, it clearly indicates that climate is not the only factor that triggers disasters in the Himalayas, which is an active mountain range, but tectonics also play an important role in glacial catchments.

Secondly, it also opens 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.

Source: This post is based on the article Change in course of Himalayan glacier can help to understand the glacial-tectonic interaction published in PIB on 23rd November 2021.

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