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GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 33, L15709, doi:10.1029/2006GL026704, 2006

Accelerated melting of Himalayan snow and ice triggers pronounced changes in a valley peatland from northern India

Kathleen Rühland

Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory, Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada


Netajirao R. Phadtare

Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehra Dun, India


Rajendra K. Pant

Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehra Dun, India


Satish J. Sangode

Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehra Dun, India


John P. Smol

Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory, Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada


Abstract

The Himalayan region of northern India depends on monsoon rains, together with snow and glacial melt, to supply life-sustaining water to one of the world's most densely populated areas. Here we provide high-resolution pollen and diatom evidence from a peat deposit in the Pinder Valley that shows a synchronous and abrupt ecosystem turnover toward a wetter state in the last two centuries that exceeded changes recorded over the last three millennia. Contrary to expectations, there was no relationship between recent proxy changes and summer monsoon precipitation. Strong relationships, however, were found with winter climate data. We link this recent unprecedented wetness to marked warming at higher elevations resulting in increased seasonal runoff and associated climatic feedbacks in this snow and ice-melt dominated region. In contrast to the expected desiccation and decomposition of most peat systems with warming, this site has instead become the wettest in its ca. 3500-year history.

Received 25 April 2006; accepted 20 June 2006; published 10 August 2006.

Index Terms: 1605 Global Change: Abrupt/rapid climate change (4901, 8408); 1630 Global Change: Impacts of global change (1225); 1807 Hydrology: Climate impacts; 1854 Hydrology: Precipitation (3354); 9340 Geographic Location: Indian Ocean.


Full Article (Nonsubscribers may purchase for $9.00, Includes print PDF, file size: 1455523 bytes)

Citation: Rühland, K., N. R. Phadtare, R. K. Pant, S. J. Sangode, and J. P. Smol (2006), Accelerated melting of Himalayan snow and ice triggers pronounced changes in a valley peatland from northern India, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L15709, doi:10.1029/2006GL026704.

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