SNOW UPDATE REPORT 2024 (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Env & Eco)

News-CRUX-10     17th June 2024        
output themes

Context: New research by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) reveals that unusually low snowfall this year in the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) may have significant consequences for downstream communities.

Hindu Kush Himalaya

  • About: The HKH region spans 3,500 km, covering parts of eight countries from Afghanistan to Myanmar.
  • Area: 3500 kilometres 
  • Countries:  Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan.
  • Significance of the HKH Region: It serves as the origin of ten major Asian river systems, including the Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra (Yarlungtsanpo), Irrawaddy, Salween (Nu), Mekong (Lancang), Yangtse (Jinsha), Yellow River (Huanghe), and Tarim (Dayan).
  • Ecosystem Services: The region supplies water and ecosystem services crucial for sustaining livelihoods to approximately 240 million people residing within its boundaries.

Key findings of Snow Update Report 2024

  • Decline in Snow Persistence: Research indicates that 2024 marks the year with the lowest snow persistence for the Ganga since 2003, measuring 17% below normal.
  • Implications for the HKH Region: The unprecedentedly low snow cover in 2024 will have profound implications for downstream communities across the entire HKH region.
  • Snowmelt Contribution to River Basins: It contributes significantly to water flow in 12 major river basins originating from the high HKH ranges, accounting for approximately 23% of total water flow.
  • Impact on River Systems: The contribution of snowmelt to water supply varies greatly among rivers: 74% for the Amu Darya, 77% for the Helmand, and 40% for the Indus.

oThe Gangetic basin has experienced significant variability in snow persistence over the past 22 years, with 2018 recording the lowest at 15.2% below normal and 2015 the highest at 25.6% above normal.

oIn 2024, the Gangetic basin has recorded its lowest snow persistence at 17% below normal, highlighting potential implications for its over 600 million inhabitants.