Skip to main content

Shrinkage of Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak Glaciers, India, from 1936 to 2013

  • H.C. Nainwal (a1), Argha Banerjee (a2), R. Shankar (a3), Prabhat Semwal (a1) and Tushar Sharma (a1)...

We have compiled and analysed available records and data on the shrinkage of Satopanth (SPG) and Bhagirath Kharak (BKG) Glaciers, Uttarakhand, India, during the period 1936–2013. We estimate the mean retreat rates of the snouts of SPG and BKG for this period at 9.7±0.8m a–1 and 7.0±0.6m a–1 respectively. We have also revised the estimates of the area vacated during the period 1956–2013 to be 0.27 ± 0.05 km2 and 0.17 ± 0.04 km2 for SPG and BKG respectively, corresponding to front-averaged retreat rates of 5.7±0.6m a–1 and 6.0±0.9m a–1. The study revealed an average thinning of glacial ice in the lower ablation zone of SPG of 9 ± 11 m in the past 51 years. We observed that while the fronts of SPG and BKG depicted in the Survey of India topographic map published in 1962 are inconsistent with other available records, the elevation contours are consistent with them.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Shrinkage of Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak Glaciers, India, from 1936 to 2013
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Shrinkage of Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak Glaciers, India, from 1936 to 2013
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Shrinkage of Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak Glaciers, India, from 1936 to 2013
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: H.C. Nainwal <>
Hide All

Present address: Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, India.

Hide All
Adhikari S and Huybrechts P (2009) Numerical modelling of historical front variations and the 21st-century evolution of glacier AX010, Nepal Himalaya. Ann. Glaciol., 50(52), 2734 (doi: 10.3189/172756409789624346)
Banerjee A and Azam MF (2016) Temperature reconstruction from glacier length fluctuations in the Himalaya. Ann. Glaciol., 57(71) (see paper in this issue) (doi: 10.3189/2016AoG71A047)
Banerjee A and Shankar R (2013) On the response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change. J. Glaciol., 59(215), 480490 (doi: 10.3189/2013JoG12J130)
Basnett S, Kulkarni AV and Bolch T (2013) The influence of debris cover and glacial lakes on the recession of glaciers in Sikkim Himalaya, India. J. Glaciol., 59(218), 10351046 (doi: 10.3189/2013JoG12J184)
Bhambri R and Bolch T (2009) Glacier mapping: a review with special reference to the Indian Himalayas. Progr. Phys. Geogr., 33(5), 672704 (doi: 10.1177/0309133309348112)
Bhambri R, Bolch T, Chaujar RK and Kulshreshtha SC (2011) Glacier changes in the Garhwal Himalaya, India, from 1968 to 2006 based on remote sensing. J. Glaciol., 57(203), 543556 (doi: 10.3189/002214311796905604)
Bolch T and 11 others (2012) The state and fate of Himalayan glaciers Science, 336, 310314 (doi: 10.1126/science.1215828)
Dobhal DP and Mehta M (2010) Surface morphology, elevation changes and terminus retreat of Dokriani Glacier, Garhwal Himalaya: implication for climate change. Himalayan Geol., 31(1), 7178
Dobhal DP, Mehta M and Srivastava D (2013) Influence of debris cover on terminus retreat and mass changes of Chorabari Glacier, Garhwal region, central Himalaya, India. J. Glaciol., 59(217), 961971 (doi: 10.3189/2013JoG12J180)
Dyurgerov MB and Meier MF (2005) Glaciers and the changing Earth system: a 2004 snapshot. (INSTAAR Occasional Paper 58) Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Fujita K and Nuimura T (2011) Spatially heterogeneous wastage of Himalayan glaciers. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (PNAS), 108(34), 1401114014 (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1106242108)
Ghosh J K and Dubey A (2008) India's new map policy: utility of civil users. Curr. Sci., 94(3), 332337
Heim A and Gansser A (1939) Central Himalaya: geological observations of the Swiss Expedition, 1936. Mem. Soc. Helv. Sci. Natur., 73(1), 7678
Immerzeel WW, Van Beek LP and Bierkens MF (2010) Climate change will affect the Asian Water Towers. Science, 328, 13821385 (doi: 10.1126/science.1183188)
Jangpangi BS (1956) Sketch of the snouts of Bhagirath Kharak Glaciers. Geol. Surv. India, Sept., 1014
Kargel JS, Cogley JG, Leonard GJ, Haritashya U and Byers A (2011) Himalayan glaciers: the big picture is a montage, Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (PNAS), 108(36), 1470914710 (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1111663108)
Leclercq PW and Oerlemans J (2012) Global and hemispheric temperature reconstruction from glacier length fluctuations. Climate Dyn., 38(5-6), 10651079 (doi: 10.1007/s00382-011-1145-7)
Moon T and Joughin I (2008), Changes in the ice front position in Greenland tidewater glaciers from 1992 to 2007. J. Geophys. Res., 113(F2), F02022 (doi: 10.1029/2007JF000927)
Mumm AL (1909) Five months in the Himalaya: a record of mountain travel in Garhwal and Kashmir. Longmans Green, London
Nainwal HC and 6 others (2007). Chronology of the Late Quaternary glaciation around Badrinath (Upper Alaknanda basin): preliminary observations. Curr. Sci., 93(1), 9096
Nainwal HC, Negi BDS, Chaudhary M, Sajwan KS and Gaurav A (2008) Temporal changes in rate of recession: evidences from Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak glaciers, Uttarakhand, using Total Station Survey. Curr. Sci., 94(5), 653660
Oerlemans J (2001) Glaciers and climate change. AA Balkema Publishers, Rotterdam
Oerlemans J (2005) Extracting a climate signal from 169 glacier records. Science, 308(5722), 675677 (doi: 10.1126/science.1107046)
Raina VK (2009) Himalayan glaciers: a state-of-art review of glacial studies, glacial retreat and climate change. (MoEF Discussion Paper, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India) G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Kosi Katarmal, Almora
Raina VK and Srivastava D (2008) Glacier atlas of India. Geological Society of India, Bangalore
Raina VK, Snehmani and Sangewar CV (2015) Glacier snout monitoring in the Himalayas. Geological Society of India, Bengaluru
Sangewar CV (2000) Bhagirath Kharak glacier, Alaknanda basin. Geol. Surv. India, Rec., 135, 8
Scherler D, Bookhagen B and Strecker MR (2011) Spatially variable response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change affected by debris cover. Nature Geosci., 4, 156159 (doi: 10.1038/ngeo1068)
Shipton E (1935) Nanda Devi and the Ganges Watershed. Geogr. J., 85, 305319
Smythe FS (1932a) Kamet conquered. V. Gollancz, London
Smythe FS (1932b) Explorations in Garhwal around Kamet. Geogr. J., 79, 111
Srivastava D (2004) Recession of Gangotri glacier. Geol. Surv. India Spec. Publ., 80, 2132
Survey of India (SOI) (1962) Topographic map 53/N. Survey of India, Dehra Dun
US Army (1954) Topographic map, NH 44-5 (1:250000), Series U502, based on medium scale ground controlled survey during 1924-1943. US Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC
Valdiya KS (1973) Lithological sub-divisions and tectonics of the Central Crystalline Zone of Kumaon Himalaya. In Proceedings of the Symposium on Geodynamics of the Himalayan region. National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, 204205
Valdiya KS , Paul SK, Chandra T, Bhakuni SS and Upadhyay RC (1999) Tectonic and lithological characterization of Himadri (Great Himalaya) between Kali and Yamuna rivers, Central Himalaya. Himalayan Geol., 20(2), 117
Vohra CP (1980), Some problems of glacier inventory in the Himalayas. IAHS Publ. 126 (Riederalp Workshop 1978 - World Glacier Inventory), 6774
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
  • URL: /core/journals/annals-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 135 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 180 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.