The Glaciers of the Himalaya

By: Staff Reporter
In the central and eastern Himalayas, a general negative mass balance has been reported, whereas in the glaciers of the Karakoram Range in the northwestern Himalaya, heterogeneous behaviour is depicted.
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The glaciers in the Indian Himalayas are divided in three geographical parts, commonly known as the western, central and eastern Himalayas. Put together, the mountain chain of the Himalayas extends for about 2,400 km and is fed by two dominant climate systems. The mid-latitude westerlies are responsible for the winter precipitation in the western and north western Himalayas, the Trans-Himalayas and the Tibet Himalayas.

On the other hand, most of the southern and eastern part of the Himalayas experience pronounced summer precipitation which sharply declines northward across the Himalayas. The glaciers of the western, central and eastern parts of the Himalayas are, therefore, often described separately.

The glaciers of the Karakoram Range in the northwestern Himalayas, as compared to others in the central and eastern Himalayas where a general negative mass balance has been reported, depict heterogeneous behaviour in the sense that many of them are dynamically unstable and prone to rapid advances or ‘surges’ that largely occur independently of the climatic conditions. For the last decade, on an average, a slight volume increase was detected.

As per the glacial inventory of Space Applications Centre (ISRO), there are   32,392 glaciers distributed over three main glacier basins of the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. These three basins have 16,049; 6,237 and 10,106 glaciers that occupy an area of 32,246; 18,393 and 20,543 sq km respectively.

The 76 km (47 m) long Siachin glacier located in Karakoram, is the longest glacier in the Indian Himalayas and the second-longest in the world’s non-polar areas. It lies immediately south of the great drainage divide that separates the Eurasian Plate from the Indian subcontinent  and  has an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its head at Indira Col . The list and location of some of the important glaciers of the Himalaya are presented in figure and table 1.



ENVIS Jammu & Kashmir. 2018. Data from ENVIS Jammu & Kashmir. Available at:

ENVIS Uttarakhand. 2018 . Data from ENVIS Uttarakhand. Available at: http:/utrenvis.

Negi, S. S. 2015. Cold Deserts in India. Indus Publishing House.

Schuawecker, M. R. S. 2015. Remotely sensed debris thickness mapping of Bara Singha Glacier Indian Himalayas. Journal of Glaciology, pp. 61.

Sharma, A.K.,Singh S.K., Kulkarni A.V., Ajai (2013) Glacier inventory in Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra basins of the Himalaya. Nat. Acad Sci Lett 36(5):497-505.


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