Modelling Permafrost Distribution in Western Himalaya Using Remote Sensing and Field Observations

Md Ataullah Raza Khan, Shaktiman Singh* (Corresponding Author), Pratima Pandey, Anshuman Bhardwaj, Sheikh Nawaz Ali, Vasudha Chaturvedi, Prashant Kumar Champati Ray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


The presence and extent of permafrost in the Himalaya, which is a vital component of the cryosphere, remains severely under-researched with its future climatic-driven trajectory only partly understood and the future consequences on high-altitude ecosystem tentatively sketched out. Previous studies and available permafrost maps for the Himalaya relied primarily upon the modelled meteorological inputs to further model the likelihood of permafrost. Here, as a maiden attempt, we have quantified the distribution of permafrost at 30 m grid-resolution in the Western Himalaya using observations from multisource satellite datasets for estimating input parameters, namely temperature, potential incoming solar radiation (PISR), slope, aspect and land use, and cover. The results have been compared to previous studies and have been validated through field investigations and geomorphological proxies associated with permafrost presence. A large part of the study area is barren land (~69%) due to its extremely resistive climate condition with ~62% of the total area having a mean annual air temperature of (MAAT) <1 °C. There is a high inter-annual variability indicated by varying standard deviation (1–3 °C) associated with MAAT with low standard deviation in southern part of the study area indicating low variations in areas with high temperatures and vice-versa. The majority of the study area is northerly (~36%) and southerly (~38%) oriented, receiving PISR between 1 and 2.5 MW/m2. The analysis of permafrost distribution using biennial mean air temperature (BMAT) for 2002-04 to 2018-20 suggests that the ~25% of the total study area has continuous permafrost, ~35% has discontinuous permafrost, ~1.5% has sporadic permafrost, and ~39% has no permafrost presence. The temporal analysis of permafrost distribution indicates a significant decrease in the permafrost cover in general and discontinuous permafrost in particular, from 2002-04 to 2018-20, with a loss of around 3% for the total area (~8340.48 km2). The present study will serve as an analogue for future permafrost studies to help understand the permafrost dynamics associated with the effects of the recent abrupt rise in temperature and change in precipitation pattern in the region.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4403
Number of pages24
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments: M.A.R.K. and P.P. are thankful to the director Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, ISRO, Dehradun for help and support. S.S. and A.B. would like to acknowledge the University of Aberdeen Pump Prime grant to support their research in Ladakh, India. S.N.A. acknowledges the Director, Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow for encouragement and support.This study did not receive any external funding.

Data Availability Statement

The data presented in this study are available in article and supple- mentary material.


  • permafrost
  • Western Himalaya
  • temperature
  • remote sensing


Dive into the research topics of 'Modelling Permafrost Distribution in Western Himalaya Using Remote Sensing and Field Observations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this