Bracing for Climate Challenges: Glacial Loss and Rising Temperatures

In the serene valleys and majestic peaks of Bhutan, a silent but profound transformation is underway, one that threatens the very essence of its existence. The State of Climate in Asia report of 2023 has unveiled a stark reality: Bhutan stands at the crossroads of vulnerability, ranking 38th in susceptibility to climate change threats but a meager 62nd in preparedness.

At the heart of Bhutan’s climate conundrum lies the intricate dance between observation, forecasting, dissemination, and readiness. While the National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) stands as a bastion of weather surveillance with its network of 234 stations, the challenge lies not in observation but in action.

In a recent ‘Hydro-met science workshop for media’, Sonam Lhamo, Principal Hydrology and Meteorology Officer at NCHM, painted a grim picture. Three benchmark glaciers—Gangjula, Thana, and Shodug—once pristine reservoirs of life-sustaining water, are now dwindling at an alarming rate.

The Gangjula glacier, cradling the headwaters of Phochhu and Punatsangchhu, has witnessed a staggering loss of 30 percent of its ice between 2004 and 2020, translating to a monumental 6.3 billion liters of water annually. Its fate, sealed within this century, serves as a harbinger of the impending crisis.

Thana Glacier, guardian of Chamkharchhu and Manas basin, sheds 6 billion liters of water each year, a grim testament to its receding stature. Meanwhile, Shodug glacier, nurturing the Thimchhu, faces a precarious future with a yearly mass balance deficit of 1,762.29 millimeters.

Bhutan’s plight is not an isolated one. Across Asia, temperatures soar to unprecedented heights, with 2023 marking the second-highest mean temperature on record. Glacial loss, a tangible consequence of this warming trend, threatens to unleash a cascade of disasters, from flooding to glacier lake outburst floods (GLOF).

But amidst the gloom, a ray of hope flickers. The Sendai Framework Monitoring reveals progress, albeit modest, with 60 percent of countries reporting on the status of their early warning systems. However, challenges persist, with only half of the world’s nations covered by such systems, leaving millions vulnerable to the whims of nature.

In the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) bears witness to the vanishing glaciers of the Eastern Himalayas, their demise hastened by rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns.

As Bhutan grapples with the existential threat posed by climate change, the urgency for action grows ever more pressing. From robust early warning systems to coordinated international efforts, the time to safeguard our planet’s future is now. For in the delicate balance of nature lies the fate of Bhutan and the world alike.

Related Posts