» » Climate change melting 5,000 glaciers rapidly, drastic impact expected

Islamabad: Around 5,000 glaciers in northern areas of Chitral district and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) region are melting at a much faster rate due to the increase in average temperatures in the mountainous valleys.

“Presently, glacial melting is among major global warming-induced risk Pakistan is grappled with. Other risks include sea-level rise, floods, higher than average temperature, a higher frequency of droughts and expanding desertification,” Ministry of Climate Change Deputy Director Mohammad Saleem Shaikh said on Sunday.

During summer months, he said, an increased or above normal flows in glacial streams, which all eventually feed the 3,500 kilometres long Indus River, clearly indicate that the country’s glaciers are melting rapidly.

The mountain streams now flow even in winters which was never observed a couple of years ago as revealed by the residents of Hunza, Ghizer, Gupis, Skardu, Gulmit and Bagrot valleys of the GB in the country’s north, reflecting the gravity of the global warming issue, he said.

“Temperatures in most of the mountainous valleys never used to go beyond 30 degree Celsius during summer but now it surpasses 40 degree Celsius at times,” he said.

“This rise in temperature is causing an expansion of rainy weather on one hand and squeezing the snowfall period on the other.  The reduced snowfall period makes it difficult for the snow to take the shape of glaciers,” the deputy director said.

He added that the increase in frequency and intensity of rainfall instead of snowfall in these mountains triggers flash floods which results in large-scale damages in the areas.

The official, who is also a spokesman of the ministry, said besides rising earth temperatures, high paced urbanisation of the mountain valleys and increased vehicular traffic have accelerated the melting process of the glaciers.

However, Pakistani scientists have already said that the glaciers in Pakistan’s Karakoram mountain range in the Upper Indus Basin areas are stable and some are even building up but research-based strong evidences show that a good number of glaciers are now melting fast due to the rising temperatures, he added.

He said that this is alarming that the melting process continues in winter also due to which we find exceptional flow in streams and rivers. This is causing flooding in these valleys, posing risks to lives and livelihoods of the people besides damaging the infrastructure in these areas, he said.

He further said the recent findings of ten weather monitoring stations installed by the Pakistan Meteorological Department also concluded that glaciers in ablation zone (the low-altitude area of a glacier) is receding faster and snowline is marching upward. This means shrinking in the glacier area. “This means that the ablation zones are increasing and accumulation zones of the glaciers reducing,” he said. 

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