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Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya Glacial Environments, Processes, Hazards and Resources

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Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya Glacial Environments, Processes, Hazards and Resources

Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya Glacial Environments, Processes, Hazards and Resources
Kenneth Hewitt
Springer Netherlands
Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya: Glacial Environments, Processes, Hazards and Resources
  • Release Date
    2023-01-29
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  • Category
    Earth Science
  • File Type
    Book
  • Language
    English
  • File Format
    DjVu
  • Year
    2014
  • Edition
    1
  • ISBN-13
    9789400763111
  • Pages
    378 pages
  • File Size
    16.392 MB
  • Release Date
    2023-01-29

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Book Summary

The Karakoram contains the greatest concentration of Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya and most of the largest ice masses outside high latitudes. Glacial Environments comprise major stores and sources of fresh water in an otherwise extreme, continental, dry region. As many as 200 million people living downstream, in the valleys of the Indus and Yarkand Rivers, depend on melt waters from snow and ice. They are at risk from climate-change impacts on glaciers and water supply, and from hazards such as glacial lake outburst floods.

While valuable research initiatives have their origins in the nineteenth century, their geographical scope has typically remained confined, and continuity over time has been lacking.  Nearly 80 years have passed since scholars dedicated a monograph to the exploration of the Karakoram glaciers. The book presents a comprehensive overview, including statistics for the ice cover, glacier mass balance and dynamics, glacierized landscapes, rock glaciers, water resources and environmental hazards. Scientists survey published glaciological and related research, along with expedition reports and archival materials in several languages. Scientists exploit the expanding potential of satellite coverage, but they primarily focus on conditions and processes reported from field investigations. Previously unpublished observations by the author are presented, based on some 45 years of work in the region.

Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya Glacial Environments, Processes, Hazards and Resources

Scientists use the broad understanding of Glacial Environments to address emerging concerns about the High Asian cryosphere and the fate of its Glaciers. They discuss these concerns in relation to the pressing issues of water supply, environmental risk, and sustainability. To help identify much-needed monitoring and research, scientists employ inquiries about aspects that remain unknown.

This book mainly concerns the present-day glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya: the conditions that sustain them, the landscapes they have helped to shape and broader environmental, water resources and hazards issues associated with them.  The core region involves about 16,500 km2 of perennial snow and ice in the headwaters of the Indus and about 4,000 km2 in the Yarkand drainage. In an otherwise extreme continental, arid region, the glaciers comprise large stores of freshwater.

Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya Glacial Environments, Processes, Hazards and Resources

Melt waters from glacier basins make up between 30 % and 40 % of the average annual flows of these rivers where they leave the Karakoram and dominate their discharges for 2–3 months of summer. Seasonal snow melt makes up most of the balance. Yields from snowmelt seem, on an average, to be somewhat greater than those from glaciers but may be less in some years. By contrast, glaciers are relatively minor contributors and snow melt much more important for tributaries of the indus draining the southern flank of the Greater Himalaya.

Rainfall is the largest contributor, as it is in most years for the Indus basin as a whole. The upper Indus and Yarkand are among the few large river basins in South Asia where rainfall is not the dominant source of stream flows. It would be difficult to overemphasis the unique ecological and human significance of the glaciers and snowfields in the two basins. They will become more critical with anticipated climate change and economic developments. Water demands and shortages in surrounding, populous lowlands are placing ever-greater pressures on mountain resources or the desire to exploit them. A sense of urgency arises from national and trans-boundary development plans for water and power. There are existing conflicts in the high mountain areas that could be aggravated, and new ones may arise. More hopefully, rational approaches based on mutual benefits could bring improved relations and greater security in the high mountains.

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