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About this book

This book brings together thirteen selected papers presented in the Third International Seminar on Science and Geopolitics of Arctic-Antarctic-Himalaya, held in India in September 2015. The papers and have been grouped according to the Seminar’s three main themes: a) Geopolitics of the Polar Regions, b) Global Climate Change and Polar Regions, and c) Climate Change and Himalayan Region.

Table of Contents


Geopolitics of the Polar Region


The Arctic Cooperation, a Model for the Himalayas—Third Pole?

The challenges faced by the peoples and governments in the Himalayas-Third Pole region resemble the ones in the Arctic. Both regions are seriously affected by external pressures such as climate change, and they share similar geopolitical circumstances. What differs between the two is that one has an effective regional governance structure to address these challenges while the other does not. The question therefore arises whether one could learn from the other. The simple answer to the question is yes. The experience from the bottom-up and science based evolution of the Arctic cooperation could serve as a model to build trust, bridge tension and foster intergovernmental cooperation that deals specifically with the Himalayan-Third Pole region. However, the politics of the region are complex and highly influenced by security tensions. It would appear that active leadership of the dominant powers, India and China, would be necessary. These two have the capacity and the resources, and as observer states to the Arctic Council, they have the first hand insight and experience of the Arctic governance structure.
Thórir Ibsen

The Hollowing of Antarctic Governance

The paper examines the apparent disabling of some substantive functions of the Antarctic Treaty System (its ‘hollowing’) since the adoption of the Madrid Protocol in 1991. It provides some examples of such hollowing by reference to regulatory gaps, the Antarctic continental shelf, and changes in the operation of Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, before exploring the drivers of the hollowing and future options to reinvigorate Antarctic governance.
Alan D. Hemmings

State Practices on Antarctica and International Law: Attempt at Identification of India’s Interests, Needs and Future Position

International Law governing the Antarctica Treaty Regime is heavily influenced by the evolving state practice than the true interpretation of the provisions of the Antarctica Treaty of 1959. The Treaty reflecting the power structures, circumstances and global affairs has undergone sea change since its entry into force. Like other international treaty regimes, non-influential participants have started taking keen strategic, environmental, economic and research interests—the trends which are nothing but consolidating. India and China then developing countries, now the important powers in the world, are ensuring that their needs, interests and concerns are reflected into any legal and policy norms and decisions. India, although a latecomer in the Antarctic diplomacy, is steadily influencing and contributing to shape the evolving norms and practices, in particular. Indian position is more likely to be shaped in future by the positions of her Asian neighbours, but at the same time, India will also carve out its own indigenous profile that meets her future political, economic, environmental and research interests. This paper attempts to examine and understand the state practices of major Antarctic powers in the areas of bio-prospecting, territorial claims, IUU fishing (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported), fishing environment and climate change, oil and mining, mineral exploration, governance, United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and continental shelf, tourism, liability and dispute settlement. It puts the Indian state practice in this overall framework and sees how India, with its emerged power status, is and will influence the evolving norms.
Bimal N. Patel

Arctic: A Paradox and Antithesis

Due to its resource potential, sensitive ecological location and a common play ground for several nations, Arctic will continue to play a strategic role in the fields of maritime, climate change and international partnership policies. While the alarming predictions of IPCC indicate a future scenario of sea-ice free Arctic, the opening up of new sea routes may redraw the geo-economic map of growth and development in the Arctic. This may call for a balanced appreciation of climate change risks and opportunities of hydrocarbons explorations in the Arctic, notwithstanding emerging financial and practical problems in extraction of hydrocarbons. In spite of the existing UNCLOS laws pertaining to the international seas, a Polar Code may have to be devised for Arctic in line with Antarctic Treaty System for the purpose of management of scientific work and logistics of exploration. Sustainable development, as is generally the principle, must be inclusive of strong environmental goals in Arctic too. Asian countries, as the observers in the Arctic Council have a responsibility to highlight the impact of warming Arctic to rest of the world as teleconnection between Arctic climate and Himalaya-Tibet plateau has scientifically been established.
Uttam K. Sinha

Should India Encourage Tourism in Antarctica?

The global tourism, in Antarctica, has been growing rapidly due to persistent curiosity and splendour of Antarctic region. Antarctica remains awe inspiring pristine land of unparalleled beauty that has to be seen and explored to be believed—for most of the people. Ever since the regulations of Environmental Protection measures became an essential component of tourism policy in Antarctica, the tourism industry has grouped itself under an organized non-governmental activity and arranged to adhere to CEP (Committee on Environmental Protection) guidelines on landings, visits to sites of historical and intrinsic values and maintaining safe distance from the wild life. This has encouraged State sponsorship from some countries in the form of issuing permits for visits to Antarctica which in turn has had visible contribution in the development of travel market and ancillary industries linked to shipping, port development etc., in the gateway centres that act as departure points for Antarctica. The tourist inflow to Antarctica is essentially concentrated to Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands and sub-Antarctic islands which are accessible from Argentina’s port of Ushuaia or Punta Arenas of Chile by air. Cape Town, Christ Church and Hobart are other gateways to Antarctica. For tourists from northern hemisphere, especially Asia, Antarctic travel is expensive since visitors have to undertake a costly journey to South America to avail a cruise or air trip to Antarctica. It is opined that India should take a lead and fill up the geographical gap existing in this arena. There exists a lot of potential for India to support and encourage regulated tourism to Antarctica, especially as it has two operational research stations and one abandoned historical site of its first permanent station in Antarctica.
Rasik Ravindra

The Global Climate Change and Polar Region


The Arctic Teleconnections

The Arctic Region is warming at an alarming rate due to snow/ice-temperature feedback as a result of increase in greenhouse gases and other anthropogenic activities. Due to the Arctic amplification of warming, the Arctic sea ice here is melting at a faster rate of about 0.67 million km2 per decade. Past observational data suggest that the Indian Monsoon variability is linked to the Arctic Sea ice variability. In fact, about 10% of Indian monsoon variability is explained by Arctic Sea Ice. Further, the effect of sea ice decline has implications in changes of large scale circulation of mid-latitudes, for example a southward shift of Sub-tropical westerly Jet Stream, and occurrence of extreme weather events over Europe and Asia. The abnormal heavy rainfall spell during March 2015 over the northern parts of India could be linked to the Arctic sea ice melting and associated changes in mid-latitude circulation. The analyses of Arctic Circulation anomalies have revealed that the Arctic Oscillation (opposing pattern of pressure between the Arctic and the northern middle latitudes) and the Indian Monsoon are inter-linked. An interesting twist in the relationship between the Arctic and Indian monsoon, has been observed as a result of the recent studies, which shows that abnormal convection over the northwest India could influence Arctic sea ice melting through mid-latitude circulation anomalies and wave-guide.
M. N. Rajeevan

Abrupt Climate Shifts Over the Past 10,000+ Years: An Arctic-Antarctic-Asian Imbroglio?

The Asian Monsoon climate system and accompanying precipitation play a significant role in large-scale climate variability and water supply over much of the globe. For instance, the Indian agriculture, which accounts for ~25% of the GDP and employs over 70% of the population, is heavily dependent on the monsoon rains, 80% of which arrives during the summer. While our predictive capabilities of the monsoon have improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years, perhaps a major missing link in our understanding of the phenomenon of the monsoons is knowledge of the forcing functions behind the short-term monsoon variability. To predict the evolution of inter-regional climate linkages on decadal and shorter time scales, it is crucial to understand how they evolved in the past. Palaeoclimatic studies using proxies from the marine and terrestrial records present large variations of the monsoon systems during the last glacial period and over the Holocene, which can be linked to abrupt millennial-scale warm-cold episodes over Greenland and the North Atlantic. For example, speleothem records from China indicate the links between Asian monsoon and solar input and North Atlantic ice-rafting events, during the Holocene. The Chinese records also appear to correlate fairly well with corresponding short-term variations in the Indian summer monsoon. Studies of the annual sea-ice variability over Antarctica also seem to indicate that deficient monsoon years are preceded by more than normal sea-ice extent and vice versa. Has such a linkage between the Polar Regions and the Asian monsoon persisted through time and if so, what has (have) been the forcing function (s)? Is there a synchronous or time-lagged inter-hemispheric linkage between the Arctic-Antarctic and the Asian monsoon? In this paper, I focus on these and related questions and highlight the importance of understanding the role of polar and high latitudinal regions on the monsoon phenomena.
S. Rajan

Global Climate Change and the Himalayan Region


Inventory and Monitoring of Snow and Glaciers of the Himalaya Using Space Data

The 2400 km long Himalayan mountain chain and the glaciers therein, contribute to most of the perennial rivers that constitute the life line for northern plains of India and adjoining areas because of their potential for irrigation, hydropower generation and being critical indicators of climate change. A large number of these glaciers, especially those in the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra basins, have been monitored for more than last two decades, using different satellite data. Space Application Centre of ISRO has prepared an updated inventory of Himalayan glaciers on 1:50,000 scale using Resourcesat-1 satellite data (2004–07), which serves an important document for monitoring the health of these glaciers. This inventory has shown presence of a total number of 32,392 glaciers, of different sizes, in the three above mentioned basins. The monitoring of snout of these glaciers in the two periods of 1989–90 to 2001–04 and 2001–02 to 2010–11 has presented a contrasting data. During the period of 1989–90 to 2001–2004, 76% of the glaciers have shown retreat, 7% have advanced and 17% have shown no change. As compared to this during the next decade i.e. 2001–02 to 2010–11, only 12.3% glaciers have shown retreat, 86.6% of glaciers have shown stable front and 0.9% have shown advancement. Though the space borne satellite data has been used for covering large tracks of inaccessible terrain of Himalaya for snout monitoring, there is need to include and develop models to estimate the thickness of glaciers using this space data. The data from space borne Lidar and interferometric SAR, used in association of GPR survey data and ground truthing, can help in estimation of thickness of glacier ice and mass balance an important parameter that is required to be added in the monitoring.

Mitigation Strategies to Combat Climate Change in the Himalayan Mountains

The Himalayan Mountains have warmed significantly in the last century. The rate of warming during winter season is higher than in the monsoon. Consequent depletion of winter snow cover during winter and higher rates of summer melting of glaciers due to rising temperatures are likely to affect hydro-meteorological regimes of many river basins in Himalayas and livelihood of millions of people inhabiting the Indo-Gangetic Plains of Northern India. This paper explores the reasons behind climate change in Himalayas and addresses the issue of mitigation of these impacts by suggesting use of innovative latest state-of-the-art green technologies to tap renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, hydro-electric and geothermal energy.
M. R. Bhutiyani

Winter Climate and Snow Cover Variability Over North-West Himalaya

The impact of climate change over Indian Himalaya has received a great deal of attention worldwide. The present study focuses the recent winter climate, snow cover and albedo variability over north-west Himalaya (NWH). We analyze the trends of climate and snow cover variations in past two decades (1991–2011) and compare with the recent years 2001–2014, in three different snow climatic zones of NWH viz. Lower Himalaya (LH), Great Himalaya (GH) and Karakoram Himalaya (KH). The analysis of past two decades suggests that the maximum temperatures have increased and minimum temperatures have decreased in all the three zones of NWH. The trends of winter mean temperatures have been found increasing in LH and GH, and decreasing in KH. The increasing trend in diurnal temperature range (DTR) was observed over all the three zones and attributed to increasing maximum and decreasing minimum temperatures. Significant increasing trends in total precipitation (solid and liquid) were observed in LH and GH, and insignificant decreasing trend in KH. The field observed winter snow albedo of the same period suggest significant decreasing trend in GH and no trend in LH. The snow cover area (SCA) and albedo was monitored using MODIS sensor for the winter period 2001–14. These recent years (2001 onward) analysis suggests that the trends of SCA and snow albedo are insignificantly increasing over NWH. This has been supported by insignificant decreasing winter mean temperatures in all the three zones or vice-versa. These decreasing trend in temperature and increasing trends in SCA and albedo are attributed to recent ‘Hiatus’ in rising winter mean temperatures and thus global warming. The trends of these climatic variations in different periods also support the climate change impact on Himalayan snow cover and glaciers.
H. S. Negi, M. S. Shekhar, H. S. Gusain, A. Ganju

Regional Climate Changes Over Hindukush-Karakoram-Himalaya Region

The Hindukush-Karakoram Himalaya, one of the largest mountain chains of the world with some of the highest peaks, comprises of regions of diverse climatic and hydrological regimes. In line with the global temperature rise, the model data sets, in spite of its being scare and not highly reliable, show a significant warming trend over the western parts of the Himalaya, while in other parts this positive trend is not significant, statistically. The former region has also recorded a positive trend of precipitation in the recent past in both the June to September summer monsoons and as well as in the winter (December to February) season; corresponding to the increase in the snow cover over some parts. A general decrease in the glacial mass has been reported by many studies which show that glaciers have retreated and lost their mass. However, in the central Karakoram, snow cover has increased in recent times (also called Karakoram anomaly).
D. Kumar, A. Choudhary, A. P. Dimri

Current Status of Himalayan Cryosphere and Adjacent Mountains

Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalaya (HKKH) region represents one of the major non-polar cryosphere domains on the Earth. This region feeds three major rivers namely: the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra and supports a huge population of more than 1 billion people. There is wide variability and uncertainty in data on most aspects of this cryospheric domain. The behaviour of glacial melting in HKH region is highly heterogeneous with the highest negative mass balance in the eastern Himalaya, relatively less negative mass balance in the western Himalaya with positive mass balance in the Karakoram. The hydrological budget of the higher Himalayan rivers depends on the precipitation (snowfall and rainfall) but the available estimates on snow cover and rainfall are highly variable and in few cases appear to be unacceptable. Reported precipitation variability for the Indus basin is more than 250%, for the Ganga basin it is 100% and for the Brahmaputra basin the variability is more than 240%. The estimate on glacial cover and its volume in the Himalayan-Karakoram regions shows variability of more than 130 and 250% respectively. The available estimates on the glacial melt fraction also show high variability, for example for the Indus basin the variability is ~170%, for the Ganga basin it is ~300% and for the Brahmaputra basin the variability is more than 100%. The number of glaciers in the Himalaya and the adjacent mountains differ in the different glacier inventories. Similarly, published data on basin wise glaciated area varies from 300% for Indus basin, 200% for the Ganga basin and it is more than 450% for the Brahmaputra basin. The present work reviews current status of the Himalayan cryosphere.
Abul Amir Khan, N. C. Pant, Rasik Ravindra

Assessment of Glacier Fluctuations in the Himalaya

Impact of climate change on Himalayan glaciers is debated extensively in India and many scientific data are published in this regard. Yet, there is a gap in our understanding of the current state of glaciers. Hence, we have looked into the scientific studies published on glacier fluctuations in the Himalaya to assess its status. These scientific studies were carried out using both field data and remote sensing techniques. Reconciling of these data suggest overall loss in the glacier area, length and mass across Himalaya, except in the Karakoram region where stable front and advance is observed. On an average, glaciers across the Himalaya were found retreating at a rate of 15.5 ± 11.8 m year−1 and have lost an overall area of 13.6 ± 7.9% from the last four decades. However, these observations on area and retreat are not extensive and are missing from few parts of the Himalaya. Another key parameter to understand health of glacier is mass balance. Mass balance (MB) records are available at glacier, basin and regional scale. Field investigations are carried out at glacier scale and are only available for 14 glaciers which suggest cumulative loss of 20 ± 6 m from 1975 to 2014. However in few glaciers, glaciological measurements do not match very well with geodetic method. Geodetic measurements carried out at basin level show maximum mass loss in Lahaul Spiti region in western Himalaya. On the other hand, region wise monitoring of MB using AAR method suggests maximum loss in the eastern Himalaya and least in the Karakoram. These observations are not free of uncertainty and also show discrepancy between different methods. Therefore, in the wake of rising CO2 in the atmosphere, extensive field investigations are needed along with development of robust models to understand the glacier response to climate change.
Anil V. Kulkarni, S. Pratibha
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