Status of the Siachen Glacier In The Himalayas

I thank Benny Peiser for alertng us to another excellent paper, and to the Geological Society of India for providing a copy of the paper on the status of the Siachen glacier in the Himalayas.

The article is

V. K. Raina and C. Sangewar, 2007 Siachen Glacier of Karakoram Mountains, Ladakh – Its Secular Retreat
Journal of the Geological Society of India (Vol.70(1), July 2007, pp.11-16.

The abstract reads,

“The Siachen glacier is the second largest glacier known outside the polar and sub-polar regions and the largest in the Karakoram Himalaya. The glacier with a length of 74 km is an example of the nature and size of the glaciers that must have once existed in the Himalaya towards the end of the last Ice Age. This glacier, primarily, because of its size has remained an important topic of glacier study and survey. Observation of the glacier front from 1862AD till date has revealed that there may have been a rapid advance of 700 m or so between 1862 and 1909, which was subsequently neutralised by relatively faster retreat between 1929AD and 1958AD. The glacier along its snout front has since been in rest mode, a term used in glaciology to depict glaciers with very low or practically nil retreat.”

One excerpt from the paper reads,

“The Siachen glacier … is the second largest glacier known outside the polar and sub-polar regions. It is a valley glacier and is situated within the coordinate (35°12′ and 35°41′ N: 76°47′ E and 77°11′ )…”

Figure 10 in the paper shows its frontal position in 1862, 1909, 1929, 1958 and 2005. It is ahead of its postion in 1862, and slightly behind the other positions. Since 1958 its retreat is slight.

The text states,

“….using the position of the narrow gully on the left-east-bank as the marker, reveals that the front, that was almost in line with the narrow gully in the year 1985, had, by the year 2004, retreated by about 50 m; indicative of an average retreat of less than 2.5 m per year.”

The paper concludes with

“…over the last 150 years or so:

1. Between the years 1862AD and 1909AD the glacier front advanced by 725 m.

2. Between the years1909AD and 1929AD the glacier front retreated by about 50 m.

3. Between the years1929 AD and 1958 AD glacier front retreated by about 400 m (Rapid retreat may have
compensated the unusual rapid advance recorded at the beginning of the century).

4. Between the years 1958 AD and 1985 AD the glacier front, for all practical purpose, remained stationary.

5. Between the years 1985AD and 2005AD the glacier has recorded an annual retreat of less than 2.5 m.”


“The data as presented above, is a clear indicator of the fact that this glacier, at present is in rest mood and from the available evidences one can not opine any sensational retreat in the near future unless a catastrophic climatic change takes place. It is the opinion of the authors that the prediction made by Hasnain (2005) is too sensational and not borne by ground truth.” [thr Hasnain reference is Hasnain, S.I., 2005 Skating on thin ice, Times of India, Chandigarh, 29/7/2005].

This paper adds to the growing list of papers on Climate Science which documents that glacier behavoir around the world is quite complex and is not described by such a coarse climate metric as the global average surface temperature (see and see).

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