Saturday, March 6, 2010

Glacial Recession in Pakistan

The Biafo Glacier is a 63 km long glacier in the Karakuram Mountains of the Northern Areas, Pakistan which meets the 49 km long Hispar Glacier at an altitude of 5,128 m (16,824 feet) at Hisper La (Pass) to create the world's longest glacial system outside the polar regions. This highway of ice connects two ancient mountain kingdoms, Nagar (immediately south of Hunza) in the west with Baltistan in the east. The traverse uses 51 of the Biafo Glacier's 63 km and all of the Hispar Glacier to form a 100 km glacial route.

The Biafo Glacier presents a trekker with several days of very strenuous, often hectic boulder hopping, with spectacular views throughout and Snow Lake near the high point. Snow Lake, consisting of parts of the upper Biafo Glacier and its tributary glacier Sim Gang, is one of the world's largest basins of snow or ice in the world outside of the polar regions, up to 1,600 m (one mile) in depth.

The Biafo Glacier is the world's third longest glacier outside of the polar regions, second only to the 70 km Siachen Glacier disputed between Pakistan and India and Tajikistan's 77 km long Fedchenko Glacier.

Campsites along the Biafo are located off of the glacier, adjacent to the lateral moraines and steep mountainsides. The first three (heading up from the last village before the glacier, the thousand-year-old Askole village) are beautiful sites with flowing water nearby. Mango and Namla, the first two campsites, are often covered in flowers and Namla has an amazing waterfall very near the camping area. Baintha, the third camp site, is often used as a rest day. A large green meadow, it has a few running streams near the camp and many places to spend the day rock climbing or rappelling.

Evidence of wildlife can be seen throughout the trek. The Ibex and the Markhor Mountain Goat can be found and the area is famous for brown bears and snow leopards, although sightings are rare.
Source: Wikipedia

One of my friend Alison Gannett- a TCP presenter in United States have documented Glacial Recession in Pakistan on her ski expeditions. She was kind enough to share with me the pictures of Biafo Glacier, first in 1906 and then by her in 2007, showing massive glacial recession in just 100 years. That’s why looking at these pictures, I went into bit more research on Biafo Glacier.

It shows how global warming is accelerating the recession and would badly impact water resources in this region. It is very clear from the basic science of climate change that environmental pollution in shape of greenhouse gases would keep on concentrating in the atmosphere, trap heat and result in global warming. If the world community does not control global carbon emission to keep average temperature rise below 2 degree, we will keep losing our glaciers.

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