Himalayan Glaciers

News: A proposal has been initiated by National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) Ministry of Earth Sciences to estimate thickness of Himalayan glaciers using innovative airborne radar surveys in collaboration with established Indian researchers in India and abroad.


  • A pilot study is proposed in Lahaul-Spiti basin of Himachal Pradesh for customizing the technique and methods in initial phase followed by Airborne radar surveys across representative sub-basins of Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra basins in the next phase.
  • No specific funds have been allocated pending the finalization of project, Airborne radar surveys are proposed to estimate the thickness of Himalayan glaciers.
  • Different techniques like geophysical techniques and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) profiling have been employed for glacier depth assessment by Geological Survey of India (GSI).
  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) carries out Research and Development study to estimate thickness of major Himalayan glaciers using remote sensing-based methods.
  • Design, fabrication and testing of compact and lightweight radar and antennas suitable for helicopter-based operations are proposed for which sufficient expertise is available in India and with overseas Indians.

What is Glacier?

  • Glaciers are a bulk of ice moving under its weight. It forms in areas where the amassing of snow goes beyond its ablation over many years. They are generally seen in the snow-fields.
  • This largest freshwater basin covers around 10 percent of the land surface of the Earth.
  • According to the topography and the location of the glacier, it can be categorized as Mountain Glacier (Alpine Glaciers) or Continental Glacier (Ice Sheets).  The Continental Glacier moves outward in all directions whereas the Mountain Glacier moves from a higher to a lower altitude.

Types of Glaciers

Glaciers can be distinguished in two major categories based on its type:

Alpine GlaciersIce Sheets
·         Alpine glaciers are formed on the mountainsides and they usually move downwards through the valleys.

·         There are times when an alpine glacier also deepens the valleys by pushing away the dirt, soil, and other materials.

·         These glaciers are found in high mountains.

·         Ice sheets form broad domes and usually spread out in all directions.

·         When the ice sheets spread, they cover all the areas such as valleys, plains, and mountains with a thick blanket of ice.

·         The continental glaciers are the largest ice sheets and cover most of Antarctica and islands of Greenland.