Long-term spatiotemporal variability in the surface velocity of Eastern Himalayan glaciers, India

Saurabh Kaushik* (Corresponding Author), Tejpal Singh, Anshuman Bhardwaj, Pawan Kumar Joshi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Investigation of spatiotemporal variation in glacier velocity is imperative to comprehend glacier mass and volume loss as a function of their sensitivity to climate change. The long-term glacier velocity record for the Eastern Himalayan region is of utmost importance owing to its data scarcity and climate sensitivity. Here, we present a long-term dataset spanning more than two decades (1994–2020) of glacier surface velocity for the entire Sikkim Himalaya by applying image correlation methods on the multi-temporal Landsat images. Our results demonstrate an average glacier surface velocity decline from 15.7 ± 5.69 (1994/96) to 12.88 ± 2.09 m yr−1 (2018/2020), that is a decline of ~15% during the period of investigation. Trend analysis shows a decreasing trend in median velocity (32.2%) at a rate of 0.25 m yr−1. Despite the general decline in average glacier velocity, the rate of slowdown of individual glaciers is extremely heterogeneous (3.6–20 m yr−1). Our study shows that up to 32% of the observed heterogeneity in velocity variation can be explained by the variation in glacier size. The present study highlights that large glaciers with thick ice cover move faster compared to small glaciers (even those situated on steep slopes). The findings are significant and have direct implications for assessing future water availability scenarios and modelling glacio-hydrology in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1720-1733
Number of pages14
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number7
Early online date11 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
SK and TPS are grateful to the Director CSIR‐CSIO, Chandigarh, India, for providing infrastructure and motivation. SK and TPS are highly thankful to Mr Amitava Das (Head of Division and Associate Professor AcSIR, India) for providing all the necessary computational facilities and encouragement for the work. PKJ wishes to thank DST‐PURSE of JNU, New Delhi, for providing research support. All the authors deeply acknowledge the US Geological Survey for providing satellite data (Landsat and ASTER) free of cost. SK acknowledges funding from DST‐India via the INSPIRE fellowship scheme (DST/INSPIRE Fellowship/2017/IF170680).

Data Availability Statement

All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. The data on generated glacier SIV for individual glaciers will be made available upon author request.


  • Eastern Himalaya
  • glacier surface velocity
  • remote sensing


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