Shrinking snow cover continues to haunt Himachal Pradesh

Source: The post is based on the article “Shrinking snow cover continues to haunt Himachal Pradesh” published in The Hindu on 29th May 2023

What is the News?

The trend of a gradual reduction in snow cover in ecologically fragile Himachal Pradesh has increased. Also, the mean maximum and minimum average temperature is on the rise in the Himalayan region.

About the research on shrinking snow cover in Himachal Pradesh

Recently, a “Seasonal Snow Cover Variations in Himachal during 2022-23 and its comparative analysis with reference to 2021-22” report was released.

This latest scientific report was conducted jointly by the Himachal Pradesh’s State Centre on Climate Change (HIMCOSTE) and the Geo-Sciences, Hydrology, Cryosphere Sciences Applications Group (GHCAG) and the Space Applications Centre (SAC-ISRO).

The total area under snow cover was estimated using Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWIFS) satellite data during 2022-23.

Read more: Microplastics in snow raise pollution worries

What are the findings of the research on shrinking snow cover in Himachal Pradesh?

Himachal Pradesh has been witnessing an erratic, inconsistent and decreasing trend of snowfall, besides a shift in its pattern and precipitation, triggered by climate change.

In the 2022-23 winter period (October-April), there was an overall reduction of about 14.05% in the total area under snow cover in Himachal Pradesh in comparision to 2021-22.

During the peak winter months (December-February), all four basins — Chenab, Beas, Ravi and Satluj had negative trends in comparison to the last winter period.

The research also observed a reducing precipitation trend in the ecologically fragile State.

What is the importance of snow cover in the Himalayas and Himachal Pradesh?

Glaciers in the Himalayas have been reported to be retreating. These retreating glaciers, depleting snow cover and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) are of immediate concern in the mountain environment.

Most of the major rivers like the Chenab, Beas, Parvati, Baspa, Spiti, Ravi, Satluj and their perennial tributaries originating from the Himalayas, depend on the seasonal snow cover for their discharge dependability.

So, decreases in snow accumulation and glacial retreat might lead to acute water shortages in the future.

Himachal Pradesh receives winter precipitation in the form of snow at the higher altitudes. About one-third of the total geographical area of the State remains under thick snow cover during the winter season.

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