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Snow Avalanche Climatology of Indian Western Himalaya

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Abstract

Western Himalayan region of India was mainly delineated into three principle zones: Lower, Middle and Upper. These zones were broadly categorized on the basis of snow meteorological parameters and cover a large snowy area of thousands of square kilometer. Weather parameters, snowpack properties, snowpack structure and avalanche activities were observed non-homogeneous in these zones. In the present study these large zones were first divided into small snowy areas covering main road axes used for transportation during winter. Snow-meteorological data, stratigraphy data and avalanche occurrences of past 15 to 35 years of these small snowy areas were analyzed and zones having similar meteorological conditions and gross snow cover properties were identified. Identification of these small snow zones are of great help for operational avalanche forecaster to issue area specific avalanche warning. GIS (Geographic Information System) technique is used for obtaining detailed terrain information e.g. slope, aspect, elevation, surface roughness and vegetation etc. of these snow zones. Climate and snow-pack information has been accumulated from 42 observation points spread around major road axis of these small snowy areas in Western Himalaya. The snow climate of these snow zones were also examined by the snow climate classification scheme given by Mock and Birkeland.
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... In Indian Western Himalaya, Chowkibal-Tangdhar (C-T) road axis is one of the road in Tangdhar region of union territory Jammu and Kashmir which is most vulnerable to snow avalanches. Other regions which are more vulnerable for snow avalanches around Kashmir valley are Drass, Gurej, Keran, Machhal, Gulmarg, Naugam and Banihal (Gusain et al. 2009). Tangdhar region is one of the wellstudied region for snow avalanches and many researchers have reported various avalanche prediction techniques for this road axis in the past (Pant and Ganju 2004;Singh and Ganju 2004;Singh et al. 2005Singh et al. , 2019Joshi and Ganju 2006;Joshi and Srivastava 2014). ...
... This C-T road is about * 36 km long and movement on the road is affected by frequent avalanches from 26 major avalanche sites during winter season (Joshi and Ganju 2006). Formation zone of these avalanche sites are generally in the elevation range of 2800-3500 m m.s.l.. Tree line in the region exists up to 3300 m m.s.l. and beyond that elevation, slopes are generally barren/rocky with scanty trees and few patches of seasonal grass (Gusain et al 2009). ...
Article
In Western Himalaya, an average 49 person die every year due to snow avalanche activities and this death rate is very high as compared to other Asian countries. A snow avalanche accident was observed on 5 January 2018 on Chowkibal–Tangdhar (CT) road axis at avalanche site number CT-8 located near Chowkibal village in Kupwara district, union territory Jammu and Kashmir, India. In the present paper, we discuss snow avalanche simulation, the climatic condition, avalanche debris height and length, and suggested solutions to handle avalanche situations. Rapid Mass MovementS numerical model in combination with digital elevation model and potential release area has been used to simulate avalanche accident occurred on 5 January 2018 at CT-8. The analysis demonstrates maximum snow avalanche velocity, impact of pressure and height of flow to be ~ 25 ms−1, ~ 9.39 × 104 kgm−1 s−2, and ~ 3.0 m respectively on 5 January 2018 at CT-8. Further simulated avalanche debris height and length form road has been validated with ground observed data. Ground reconnaissance of the location was conducted by a team of Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Chandigarh and it has been observed that lack of ‘avalanche awareness and Standard Operating Procedures during movement in avalanche prone areas’ among the travellers on the road cause accident . The present paper seems to be first to investigate snow avalanche accident in Western Himalaya and recommend that proper campaigning of avalanche awareness among the people residing in avalanche prone areas of Himalaya could reduce such accidents significantly.
... This range is generally thickly forested below 2800 m a.s.l. and tree line exists up to 3300 m a.s.l. elevation (Gusain et al. 2009;Gusain et al. 2016). Beyond this elevation, the area is generally barren or rocky with few patches of seasonal grasses. ...
... Beyond this elevation, the area is generally barren or rocky with few patches of seasonal grasses. The mean of winter season temperature varies from − 1.5 to 2.8°C during different years as observed at Dhundi observation station of Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) (Gusain et al. 2009). Temperatures in LHZ are higher compared to other two zones (Gusain et al. 2004). ...
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Snow is an essential component of the cryosphere and spatio-temporal variability of snow cover over large Himalayan region is important for climate change studies, regional and global energy budget, aquatic cycles and managing water resources, etc. In the present paper, analysis of snow cover area (SCA) variation for more than a decade period from 2001 to 2016 in North-West Himalaya (NWH) and its climatic zones, i.e., lower Himalayan zone (LHZ), middle Himalayan zone (MHZ), and upper Himalayan zone (UHZ), has been presented. SCA has been estimated using 10-day maximum snow cover product derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor images. Large inter and intra-annual variation in snow cover of NWH and its climatic zones have been observed during the data period. SCA in NWH varied from ~ 13,180 km² (August, 2001) to ~ 2, 11,000 km² (February, 2004) during the data period. Mean of annual and seasonal SCA has been estimated for entire NWH and its climatic zones. Mean annual SCA of NWH, LHZ, MHZ, and UHZ were estimated to be ~ 92,482 km², ~ 8150 km², ~ 35,078 km², and ~ 21,190 km² respectively. SCA was observed to be decreasing in NWH, LHZ, and MHZ at the rate of 840 km² year⁻¹, 31 km² year⁻¹, and 74 km² year⁻¹ respectively during 2001–2010, although the trend was statistically non-significant. Statistically significant increasing trend in SCA has been observed in UHZ at the rate of 241 km² year⁻¹ during 2001–2016. The paper highlights a shift in SCA trends after 2010 in NWH, LHZ, and MHZ and slowdown in snow/ice cover shrinkage during recent years. Additionally, variation in snowline elevation, snow cover duration and effect of topography on snow cover has been explored during different seasons in the NWH and its climatic zones.
... The CRU (Climate Research Unit) data for 30 years (Fick & Hijmans, 2017) indicate a south-north precipitation gradient (Figure 1). The 22 years of meteorological station data show mean annual temperatures around −18°C in the upper Nubra Valley (Gusain et al., 2009). The majority of the precipitation (predominantly as snow) is contributed by the Mid-latitude Westerlies (MLW) (Bhutiyani et al., 2010). ...
Article
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Terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) dating has emerged as one of the most useful techniques in the last two decades for quantifying geomorphological processes and building the chronology of late Quaternary glacial advances/retreats. The chronology based on TCN and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of glacial landforms from the northwestern (NW) Himalaya suggests that glaciers responded to a complex interaction between temperature and moisture essentially derived from either of the climate systems, the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) and the Mid‐latitude Westerlies (MLW). The discrepancies between the TCN ages obtained on moraine boulders/bedrock surfaces, and the OSL ages on the stratigraphically equivalent deposits, highlighted the need for a detailed investigation. The present study attempts to build the chronology of Quaternary glaciation events in the Karakoram and Ladakh Ranges using TCN dating of stratigraphically constrained moraine boulders and striated bedrock surfaces. The TCN ages from glacially eroded surfaces (GES) having prominent striations are narrowly clustered around the Marine Isotopic Stage‐2 (MIS‐2). Agreement between GES TCN ages and OSL ages on the stratigraphically equivalent moraines suggests negligible geological inheritance. The glacial advance during MIS‐2 can be attributed to the combined effect of reduction in north hemispheric insolation and enhanced westerly precipitation. However, relict non‐glacial surfaces and moraine boulders with minimal ice flow modifications yield wide age distributions, most likely suggesting denudational events (interglacials) and/or contribution from tributary valley flanks.
... The area is highly glaciated and most of the glaciers in the area have steep altitude gradients between their snout and upper zones. Later on Gusain et al. (2009) conducted a detailed analysis of avalanche terrain and climatology of present study area particularly. Some outcomes of this analysis about Table 2. ...
Article
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Karakoram mountains range in north-western part of Himalayas is about 500 km in length and hosts some of the world’s highest peaks and longest glaciers. It is characterized by steep slopes and polar climate. Snowfall and avalanches are observed almost throughout the year. Many lives have been lost in the past in these mountains due to avalanches. This study focuses on avalanche hazard mitigation work undertaken in eastern part of Karakoram mountains, a complex of glaciers including Siachen and other connected glaciers on the eastern side of Saltoro Ridge. From the forecasting point of view, the snowpack on the slopes of Karakoram mountains almost always has unstable layers and hence continual avalanche threat exists. The structural mitigation measures are infeasible due to steep, unstable and glaciated terrain. The method of slope stabilization by preventive triggering of small avalanches holds promise but necessary infrastructure is difficult to install and maintain. Consequently, the effective avalanche hazard mitigation in the area is a challenging task. The paper describes the general terrain, climatological and avalanche characteristics of the area. Further, it elaborates the infrastructure set up, various tools and products developed to assist the avalanche practitioners in organizing safe camping and movements in the area particularly the snow-meteorological observatory network, weather modelling products, avalanche forecasting models, terrain visualization tools, hazard mapping and risk analysis, and experiences of preventive triggering of avalanches.
... Climatology of the study area is represented by an SASE observatory known as 'Stage II' at an altitude 2650 m m.s.l. Seasonal snowfall at the observatory location varied from 233 to 1201 cm with an average of 725 cm during 17 seasons (Gusain et al. 2009). (Sharma et al. 2014;Singh et al. 2018a, b, c). ...
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The aim of this study is to generate a reliable dynamic snow avalanche hazard map using analytical hierarchy process method based on multisource geo-spatial data for the Chowkibal–Tangdhar (C–T) road axis in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), India. Avalanche-prone areas of C–T axis have been demarcated using three causative parameters, i.e., terrain, ground cover and meteorological parameters. Terrain parameters, e.g., elevation, slope, aspect and curvature, have been estimated from Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, Global Digital Elevation Model Version 2. Ground cover information has been extracted from Landsat-8 data. Meteorological parameters maps, i.e., snow depth, relative humidity and air temperature, have been generated using geo-spatial interpolation techniques of in situ data. All the parameters have been incorporated in Geographic Information System environment to generate the hazard map. Validation of hazard map was accomplished with the area under the curve method. The prediction rate was observed to be 93.2%. Further, 20% of the study area was estimated having no hazard, 55% as low hazard, 12% as moderate hazard and 13% as high hazard on April 13, 2015. Dynamic hazard map thus generated using remote sensing and in situ data will be useful for mitigation of snow avalanche hazard, regional planning for development of infrastructure, transportation, troops movement, army deployments and communication network.
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