Surge-Type Glaciers

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A seasonal advancement in 220 surging or surge-type glaciers in the Karakoram Range of Ladakh has been found by the scientists from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) , Dehradun.

WIHG is an autonomous institute operating under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) .

Major Highlights

  • Glaciers showing advancement in volume and length over a period are the Surge-type glaciers.
  • These glaciers represent 40 % of the total glaciated area of the Karakoram range.
  • They don՚t flow at a constant speed and are subjected to cyclical flow instabilities.
  • Due to low amount of meltwater flowing unsteadily underneath the glaciers surge during winters is more controlled.
  • Due to the channelized flow of the melted water, the surging stops in summer.

Oscillation Classification into Two Phases

Active (Surge) Phase

Brief (months to years) rapid flow.

Quiescent Phase

Lengthy (tens to hundreds of years) slow flow or stagnation.

Importance of Studying Surging Glaciers

  • Surging glaciers can result in the destruction of villages, roads, and bridges.
  • Ice-dammed lake formed due to the surging glaciers advancing across a river valley forming catastrophic outburst floods.
  • Thus, monitoring of glacier surges, ice-dammed lake formation along with drainage is of utmost importance.


  • Masses of ice moving as sheets over the land.
  • The movement of glaciers is slow unlike water flow.
  • Due to the friction caused by sheer weight of the ice erosion by glaciers is tremendous.
  • Continuous movement of glaciers can remove debris, reduce the slopes due to the divides getting lowered to an extent that glaciers stop moving.

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