November 22, 2022

Suru Basin, Ladakh India Glaciers Bare of Snowcover in August 2022

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Suru Basin glaciers in 1998 and 2022 Landsat images.  Red arrow marks the 1998 terminus location, yellow arrow the 2022 terminus location. S=Shafat Glacier, D=Dilung Glacier. Glacier 1-4 are unnamed glaciers that lost almost all snowcover in 2022.

Glaciers of the Suru Basin, draining the Ladakh Range, a drier region of the Himalaya, was significantly by the 2022 pre-monsoon and monsoon season warmth. Here we focus on a group of glaciers near Shafat and Dilung Glacier that lost snowcover in 2022. We also look at the retreat of Shafat and Dilung Glacier.  Shafat Glacier occupies the northeast flank of Nun Kun Peak in Ladakh India and drains into the Suru valley. The main valley glacier has suffered from detached tributaries leading to terminus area stagnation (Pelto, 2021). Dilung Glacier retreat has led to an expanding proglacial lake.  Shukla et al (2020) identified an increase in annual temperature has driven a 6% loss in regional glacier area and a 62% expansion in debris cover from 1971-2017. Here we compare Landsat imagery from 1998-2022 to identify this glaciers response to climate change.

In 1998 the terminus of Shafat Glacier was at the red arrow near a junction with a key tributary, with clean active ice reaching to the terminus.  By 2022 the active ice is 2.5 km upglacier from this point at the yellow arrow, though there is stagnant debris covered ice below this point. Dilung Glacier in 1998 terminates in a 1.1 km long proglacial lake. By 2022 the glacier has retreated 900 m, resulting in a 2.0 km long lake.  Rashid and Majeed (2018) indicate nearby Drang Drung Glacier has retreated 925 m since 1971, with a sharp increase after 2014.

For an alpine glacier to have a balanced annual budget it has to be 50-60 snowcovered at the end of the melt season. On Sept. 1, 2022 there are four glaciers 1-4 in this region that have  0-10% snowcover left. The snowcover is above 5300 m. This is illustrative of significant mass losses in 2022. On Dilung Glacier and Shafat Glacier the snowcover is ~20% and is confined to the regions above 5300 m. There is some cloudcover over the top of the Shafat Glacier in the 9-1-2022 Landsat image.

Suru Basin glaciers in September 1, 2022 Landsat image. Glacier 1-4 are unnamed glaciers that lost almost all snowcover in 2022.  S=Shafat Glacier, D=Dilung Glacier. The snowline is above 5300 m.