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The principal glaciers in Himalayas can be divided in four groups:

Punjab Himalaya Group of Glaciers
Rakhiot Glacier, Kolhai Glacier, Neh-Nar Glacier, Sarbal Glacier, Kangriz Glacier, Brahma Glacier, Drung Drung Glacier, Mulkila Group Glaciers, Barashigri Glacier, Dibi Bokri Glacier, Gara Glacier and Gorgarang Glacier.
 

Garhwal Himalaya Group of Glaciers
Gangotri Glacier, Santopath Glacier, Kedarnath Glacier, Milam Glacier, Pindari Glacier, Shankulapa Glacier, and Poting Glacier.

Nepal Himalaya Group of Glaciers
Yaling Glacier, Chong Kumadan Glacier, Rundun Glacier, Glaciers adjoining to Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Peaks, Kang Shung Glacier, Rupal Glacier, Khumbu Glacier, Glaciers adjoining to Makalu Peak, and Zemu Glaciers.

Assam Himalaya Group of Glaciers

Glaciers adjoining Kanchenjunga peak, Sanlung Glacier and Glaciers adjoining Gyara Pari peak.


Principal Glacier Fed River System of Himalayas

Major river system

Name of river/tributary

Catchment area (sq. km) covered by

Percentage Glaciation

Mountains

Glaciers

Indus

Indus

268,482

8,790

3.3

Jhelum

33,670

170

5.0

Chenab

27,195

2,944

10.0

Ravi

8,029

206

2.5

Sutlej

47,915

1,295

2.7

Beas

14,504

638

4.4

Ganga

Yamuna

11,655

125

1.1

Ganga

23,051

2,312

10.0

Ramganga

6,734

3

0.04

Kali

16,317

997

6.01

Karnali

53,354

1,543

2.9

Gandak

37,814

1,845

4.9

Brahmaputra

Kosi

61,901

1,318

2.1

Tista

12,432

495

4.0

Raidak

26,418

195

0.7

Manas

31,080

528

1.7

Subansiri

18,130

725

4.0

Brahmaputra

256,928

1,080

0.4

Dibang

12,950

90

0.7

Lohit

20,720

425

2.01

Gross

1,001,294

25,724

2.6

Source: NIH (1991).

Gangotri Glacier:  Gangotri Glacier is one of the largest glaciers in the Himalayas. The glacier is located in the Uttarkashi District of Uttaranchal State falling in the Garhwal Himalayan Region. The snout of the Gangotri Glacier is known as Gomukh and a proglacial melt water stream, known as Bhagirathi River, emerges out from Gomukh at an elevation of 4,000m. To reach at the Glacier, one has to trek for about 18 km from the Gangotri town. Rough estimate based on the topography of the area and some  field observations suggest that the depth of the glacier is about 200 m. Gangotri Glacier contains a large number of crevasses spread all over the ablation zone. These crevasses are well exposed when seasonal snow accumulated in the ablation zone is depleted.

  

Gangotri glacier system is a cluster of many glaciers comprising of main Gangotri glacier (length: 30.20 km; width: 0.20-2.35 km; area: 86.32 km2) as trunk part of the system. It flows in the northwest direction. The major glacier tributaries of the Gangotri Glacier system are Raktvarn Glacier (55.30 km2), Chaturangi Glacier (67.70 km2), Kirti Glacier (33.14 km2), Swachand Glacier (16.71 km2), Ghanohim Glacier (12.97 km2), Meru Glacier (6.11 km2), Maindi Glacier (4.76 km2) and few other having glacierised area of about 3.08 km2. The elevation area of the Gangotri Glacier varies from 4,000-7,000 m. The Gangotri Glacier area also has several high peaks around it, notably the majestic snow clad Shivling peak (6500 m).

 

The Gangotri Glacier lies in the central crystalline zone. The Himalayan crystallines along the Bhagirathi valley are composed of Pelitic and semi-pelitic meta-sediments with acid and basic intrusive. The area is situated north of Main Central Thrust (MCT) which separates the metamorphics from the underlying very low grades of unmetamorphosed sedimentary sequence of the lesser Himalaya. Mica schists are the predominant rock found over the MCT. Further, northeast of Gangotri these schists are intruded by hard and massive granite known as Gangotri granite. From Gangotri town towards Gomukh, the Gangotri granite gradually changes into fine grained, well-foliated, garnetiferrous gneiss and augen gneiss intruded by fine-grained aplitic veins.

 

The Bhagirathi river valley is a broad U-shaped with high sidewalls, which is a characteristic of its glacial origin. The lower part of the ablation zone of the glacier is covered with thick supraglacial moraine and shows development of few lakes. Due to the recession, the location of Gomukh has also moved upstream with time. Morainic material present between Chirwasa and Gomukh in the form of tillite hillocks are considered as evidences of the extent of Gangotri Glacier. It is NW-SE trending valley within the granitic terrain. The prominent geomorphic landforms formed by the glacial environment are different levels of lateral, and recessional moraines, U-shaped glacial troughs, terraces and outwash plains.

 

Thick vegetation is found from Gangotri town to Deo Gad. Deo Gad, located about 5 km upstream to the Gangotri town, is a tributary to the Bhagirathi River. The vegetation gradually reduces beyond Deo Gad. There is little vegetation around Chirwasa, a place between Deo Gad and Gomukh, but beyond Chirwasa, the vegetation is significantly reduced up to Gomukh. As such there is very little vegetation between Chirwasa and Gomukh. Common flora found in the area are Himalayan cedar (Botanical name: Cedrus deodara) which dominate on the slopes along with few Spruce (Picea smitbiana), Silver fir (Abies pindrow) and Blue pine (Pinus wallichiana). The Indian birch (Betula utilis) is the only tree found in and around the Bhojwasa. The important faunas include leopard, musk deer and varau deer. Many different species of birds also found in the area.

 

 A preliminary analysis of limited rainfall data showed that the average summer season rainfall (May-October) was about 260 mm. Mean monthly temperatures for May, June, July, August, September and October were 8.8, 10.3, 11.7, 10.8, 7.7 and 5.3 c, respectively, suggesting that July is the warmest month. Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures over the summer season was 14.6C and 3.9C, respectively. Day-time wind speed is about 4 times stronger than the night-time wind speed. Mean daily sunshine hours were 5.6 hours. Monthly pan evaporation was 150.6, 113.4, 106.9, 85.5, 92.0 and 97.6 mm for the month from May to October respectively. Meteorological conditions represent dry weather conditions in the study area.

 The mean daily discharge ranges between 5 and 194 m3/s. The mean monthly discharge near the snout for May, June, July, August, September and October was 27.3, 74.1, 121.8, 105.7, 57.0 and 19.7 m3/s, respectively; the maximum discharge occurs in July. The months of July and August contribute about 57% to the total summer discharge. The strong storage characteristics of the Gangotri Glacier are reflected by the comparable magnitude of runoff observed during day-time and night-time. Mean monthly suspended sediment concentration for May, June, July, August, September and October during the study period were 1942, 2063, 3658, 2551, 646 and 160 mg/l, respectively. Mean monthly suspended sediment load for corresponding months was found to be 6002, 14113, 39371, 24075, 4371 and 267 tones, respectively.

 

Dokriani Glacier: The Dokriani Glacier is a valley type glacier located in Garhwal region of Himalayas. This glacier lies between latitudes 31 49 to 31 52 N and longitudes 78 47 to 78 51 E. The glacier originates in the vicinity of Janoli (6,633 m) and Draupadi ka Danda (5,716 m) peaks. It is situated about 30 km ENE of Bhukki village. A small stream, known as Din Gad, originates from the Dokriani Glacier. It follows a narrow valley and meets Bhagirathi River at Bhukki. The total drainage area of this glacier is about 23 km2 out of which about 10.3 km2 is glaciated (the remaining part has rock outcrops, slopes, etc.). The elevation of glacier varies from about 3,950-5,800 m and its length is about 5.5 km whereas its width varies from 0.1-2.0 km from snout to the accumulation zone.  The middle part of the glacier is highly fractured and consists of crevasses, moulins, glacier table, and ground moraines.  The crevasses are mainly transverse type which is wide and long.  Sometimes longitudinal crevasses are also seen along the sides of the glacier.

 

The snout of glacier is situated at an elevation of about 4,000 m and is covered by huge boulders and debris.  The lower portion of the glacier is almost completely covered by debris. The material of these moraines has been derived from the side of valley.  This glacier is bounded by two large lateral moraines which are about 200 m in height.  Besides these, several other lateral moraines are present at different altitudes. These different levels of moraines are indicative of the past extension of the glacier.

 

Kolhai Glacier (Jammu & Kashmir): This glacier is situated in the Lidder Valley in Jammu & Kashmir State and extends from 75 19 N to 75 22N latitude and 34 8E to 34 12E longitude. The elevation of the glacier ranges from 3,650 m to 4,800 m. On the basis of orientation and its location in adjoining valleys around the Kolhai peak, the entire glacier can be divided into four parts. The average width of 3 parts of the glacier is approximately 1 km and that of the other part is about 0.75 km.  The length of the glacier varies from 2.5 km to 6 km. The glaciated area has been assessed to be around 24 km2.

 

Deep and wide crevasses exist all along the snout and ablation zone of the glacier. Some of these crevasses are quite large at a few places, the cracks in the ice are more than 10 m wide. A small but deep lake exists on the southern side of the glacier.  This lake is known as Doodhnag Lake. It is oval shaped with elevation about 3,750 m and surface area about 2 km2.

 

The Chhota Shigri Glacier: The Chhota Shigri Glacier lies on the northern slope of the main ridge of the Pir Panjal Range in the east of the Rohtang Pass (H.P.). The high, steep ridges and mountain terrain provide an ideal condition for the development of this glacier. The Chhota Shigri Glacier is located at 32 15 N and 77 31E, covering about 10 km2 area.  The total drainage area of Chhota Shigri Glacier stream is approximately 45 km2. There is very high gradient from accumulation to ablation area and snout. The glacier melt drains out in a single confined stream and meets the Chandra River. Lateral moraines are present all along the body of the glacier up to the accumulation zone.