Himalayas

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Himalayas
Himalayas and allied ranges NASA Landsat showing the eight thousanders, annotated with major rivers.jpg
The arc of the Himalayas (also Hindu Kush and Karakorams) showing the eight-thousanders (in red); Indo-Gangetic Plain; Tibetan plateau; rivers Indus, Ganges, and Yarlung Tsangpo-Brahmaputra; and the two anchors of the range (in yellow)
Highest point
Peak Mount Everest,China and Nepal
Elevation 8,848.86 m (29,031.7 ft)
Coordinates 27°59′N86°55′E / 27.983°N 86.917°E / 27.983; 86.917 Coordinates: 27°59′N86°55′E / 27.983°N 86.917°E / 27.983; 86.917
Dimensions
Length2,400 km (1,500 mi)
Naming
Native nameHimālaya (Sanskrit)
Geography
Himalaya annotated.jpg
Mount Everest and surrounding peaks as seen from the north-northwest over the Tibetan Plateau. Four eight-thousanders can be seen, Makalu (8,462 m), Everest (8,848 m), Cho Oyu (8,201 m), and Lhotse (8,516 m).
Countries Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Sovereignty in the Kashmir region is disputed by China, India, and Pakistan.
ContinentAsia
Geology
Orogeny Alpine orogeny
Age of rock Cretaceous-to-Cenozoic
Type of rock Metamorphic, sedimentary

The Himalayas, or Himalaya ( /ˌhɪməˈl.ə,hɪˈmɑːləjə/ ; Sanskrit:  [ɦɪmaːlɐjɐ] ; from Sanskrit himá 'snow, frost',andā-laya 'dwelling, abode'), [1] is a mountain range in Asia, separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. The range has some of the planet's highest peaks, including the very highest, Mount Everest in Nepal. Over 100 peaks exceeding 7,200 m (23,600 ft) in elevation lie in the Himalayas. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia (Aconcagua, in the Andes) is 6,961 m (22,838 ft) tall. [2]

Contents

The Himalayas abut or cross five countries: Bhutan, India, Nepal, China, and Pakistan. The sovereignty of the range in the Kashmir region is disputed among India, Pakistan, and China. [3] The Himalayan range is bordered on the northwest by the Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges, on the north by the Tibetan Plateau, and on the south by the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Some of the world's major rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, and the TsangpoBrahmaputra, rise in the vicinity of the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to some 600 million people; 53 million people live in the Himalayas. [4] The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia and Tibet. Many Himalayan peaks are sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism; the summits of several Kangchenjunga (from the Indian side), Gangkhar Puensum, Machapuchare, Nanda Devi and Kailas in the Tibetan Transhimalaya are off-limits to climbers.

Lifted by the subduction of the Indian tectonic plate under the Eurasian Plate, the Himalayan mountain range runs west-northwest to east-southeast in an arc 2,400 km (1,500 mi) long. [5] Its western anchor, Nanga Parbat, lies just south of the northernmost bend of the Indus river. Its eastern anchor, Namcha Barwa, lies immediately west of the great bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. The range varies in width from 350 km (220 mi) in the west to 150 km (93 mi) in the east. [6]

Name

The name of the range hails from the Sanskrit Himālaya ( हिमालय 'abode of the snow' [7] ), from himá ( हिम 'snow' [8] ) and ā-laya ( आलय 'home, dwelling' [9] ). [10] [11] They are now known as "the Himalaya Mountains", usually shortened to "the Himalayas".

The mountains are known as the Himālaya in Nepali and Hindi (both written हिमालय), Himāl (हिमाल) in Kumaoni, the Himalaya (ཧི་མ་ལ་ཡ་) or 'The Land of Snow' (གངས་ཅན་ལྗོངས་) in Tibetan, also known as Himālaya in Sinhala written as හිමාලය, the Himāliya Mountain Range (سلسلہ کوہ ہمالیہ) in Urdu, the Himaloy Parvatmala (হিমালয় পর্বতমালা) in Bengali and the Ximalaya Mountain Range (simplified Chinese :喜马拉雅山脉 ; traditional Chinese :喜馬拉雅山脉 ; pinyin :Xǐmǎlāyǎ Shānmài) in Chinese.

The name of the range is sometimes also given as Himavan in older writings, including the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. [12] Himavat (Sanskrit: हिमवत्) or Himavan Himavān (Sanskrit: हिमवान्) is a Hindu deity who is the personification of the Himalayan Mountain Range. Other epithets include Himaraja (Sanskrit: हिमराज, lit.'king of snow') or Parvateshwara (Sanskrit: पर्वतेश्वर, lit.'lord of mountains').

In western literature, some writers refer to it as the Himalaya. This was also previously transcribed as Himmaleh, as in Emily Dickinson's poetry [13] and Henry David Thoreau's essays. [14]

Geography and key features

Map of the Himalayas (including the Hindu Kush) Himalayas Map.png
Map of the Himalayas (including the Hindu Kush)

The Himalayas consist of parallel mountain ranges: the Sivalik Hills on the south; the Lower Himalayan Range; the Great Himalayas, which is the highest and central range; and the Tibetan Himalayas on the north. [15] The Karakoram are generally considered separate from the Himalayas.

In the middle of the great curve of the Himalayan mountains lie the 8,000 m (26,000 ft) peaks of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna in Nepal, separated by the Kali Gandaki Gorge. The gorge splits the Himalayas into Western and Eastern sections both ecologically and orographically – the pass at the head of the Kali Gandaki the Kora La is the lowest point on the ridgeline between Everest and K2 (the highest peak of the Karakoram range). To the east of Annapurna are the 8,000 m (5.0 mi) peaks of Manaslu and across the border in Tibet, Shishapangma. To the south of these lies Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and the largest city in the Himalayas. East of the Kathmandu Valley lies the valley of the Bhote/Sun Kosi river which rises in Tibet and provides the main overland route between Nepal and China – the Araniko Highway/China National Highway 318. Further east is the Mahalangur Himal with four of the world's six highest mountains, including the highest: Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. The Khumbu region, popular for trekking, is found here on the south-western approaches to Everest. The Arun river drains the northern slopes of these mountains, before turning south and flowing to the range to the east of Makalu.

In the far east of Nepal, the Himalayas rise to the Kangchenjunga massif on the border with India, the third highest mountain in the world, the most easterly 8,000 m (26,000 ft) summit and the highest point of India. The eastern side of Kangchenjunga is in the Indian state of Sikkim. Formerly an independent Kingdom, it lies on the main route from India to Lhasa, Tibet, which passes over the Nathu La pass into Tibet. East of Sikkim lies the ancient Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. The highest mountain in Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum, which is also a strong candidate for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The Himalayas here are becoming increasingly rugged with heavily forested steep valleys. The Himalayas continue, turning slightly northeast, through the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh as well as Tibet, before reaching their easterly conclusion in the peak of Namche Barwa, situated in Tibet inside the great bend of the Yarlang Tsangpo river. On the other side of the Tsangpo, to the east, are the Kangri Garpo mountains. The high mountains to the north of the Tsangpo including Gyala Peri, however, are also sometimes included in the Himalayas.

Going west from Dhaulagiri, Western Nepal is somewhat remote and lacks major high mountains, but is home to Rara Lake, the largest lake in Nepal. The Karnali River rises in Tibet but cuts through the centre of the region. Further west, the border with India follows the Sarda River and provides a trade route into China, where on the Tibetan plateau lies the high peak of Gurla Mandhata. Just across Lake Manasarovar from this lies the sacred Mount Kailash in the Kailash Ranges, which stands close to the source of the four main rivers of Himalayas and is revered in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, Jainism, and Bonpo. In Uttarakhand, the Himalayas rise again as the Kumaon and Garhwal Himalayas [16] with the high peaks of Nanda Devi and Kamet. The state is also home to the important pilgrimage destinations of Chaar Dhaam, with Gangotri, the source of the holy river Ganges, Yamunotri, the source of the river Yamuna, and the temples at Badrinath and Kedarnath. Uttarakhand Himalayas are regionally divided into two, namely, Kumaon hills in Kumaon division and Garhwal hills in Garhwal division. [17]

The next Himalayan Indian state, Himachal Pradesh, is noted for its hill stations, particularly Shimla, the summer capital of the British Raj, and Dharamsala, the centre of the Tibetan community and government in exile in India. This area marks the start of the Punjab Himalaya and the Sutlej river, the most easterly of the five tributaries of the Indus, cuts through the range here. Further west, the Himalayas form much of the disputed Indian-administered union territory of Jammu and Kashmir where lies the renowned Kashmir Valley and the town and lakes of Srinagar. The Himalayas form most of the south-west portion of the disputed Indian-administered union territory of Ladakh. The twin peaks of Nun Kun are the only mountains over 7,000 m (4.3 mi) in this part of the Himalayas. Finally, the Himalayas reach their western end in the dramatic 8000 m peak of Nanga Parbat, which rises over 8,000 m (26,000 ft) above the Indus valley and is the most westerly of the 8000 m summits. The western end terminates at a magnificent point near Nanga Parbat where the Himalayas intersect with the Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges, in the disputed Pakistani-administered territory of Gilgit-Baltistan. Some portion of the Himalayas, such as the Kaghan Valley, Margalla Hills and Galyat tract, extend into the Pakistani provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

Geology

The 6,000-kilometre-plus (3,700 mi) journey of the India landmass (Indian Plate) before its collision with Asia (Eurasian Plate) about 40 to 50 million years ago Himalaya-formation.gif
The 6,000-kilometre-plus (3,700 mi) journey of the India landmass (Indian Plate) before its collision with Asia (Eurasian Plate) about 40 to 50 million years ago

The Himalayan range is one of the youngest mountain ranges on the planet and consists mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, its formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary (Main Himalayan Thrust) between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The Arakan Yoma highlands in Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal were also formed as a result of this collision.

During the Upper Cretaceous, about 70 million years ago, the north-moving Indo-Australian Plate (which has subsequently broken into the Indian Plate and the Australian Plate [19] ) was moving at about 15 cm (5.9 in) per year. About 50 million years ago this fast-moving Indo-Australian Plate had completely closed the Tethys Ocean, the existence of which has been determined by sedimentary rocks settled on the ocean floor and the volcanoes that fringed its edges. Since both plates were composed of low density continental crust, they were thrust faulted and folded into mountain ranges rather than subducting into the mantle along an oceanic trench. [18] An often-cited fact used to illustrate this process is that the summit of Mount Everest is made of marine limestone from this ancient ocean. [20]

Today, the Indian plate continues to be driven horizontally at the Tibetan Plateau, which forces the plateau to continue to move upwards. [21] The Indian plate is still moving at 67 mm per year, and over the next 10 million years it will travel about 1,500 km (930 mi) into Asia. About 20 mm per year of the India-Asia convergence is absorbed by thrusting along the Himalaya southern front. This leads to the Himalayas rising by about 5 mm per year, making them geologically active. The movement of the Indian plate into the Asian plate also makes this region seismically active, leading to earthquakes from time to time.

During the last ice age, there was a connected ice stream of glaciers between Kangchenjunga in the east and Nanga Parbat in the west. [22] [23] In the west, the glaciers joined with the ice stream network in the Karakoram, and in the north, they joined with the former Tibetan inland ice. To the south, outflow glaciers came to an end below an elevation of 1,000–2,000 m (3,300–6,600 ft). [22] [24] While the current valley glaciers of the Himalaya reach at most 20 to 32 km (12 to 20 mi) in length, several of the main valley glaciers were 60 to 112 km (37 to 70 mi) long during the ice age. [22] The glacier snowline (the altitude where accumulation and ablation of a glacier are balanced) was about 1,400–1,660 m (4,590–5,450 ft) lower than it is today. Thus, the climate was at least 7.0 to 8.3 °C (12.6 to 14.9 °F) colder than it is today. [25]

Hydrology

Confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers.jpg
Confluence of the Indus River and Zanskar River in the Himalayas
Himalayas, Pheriche, Nepal.jpg
Imja Khola river valley in Solukhumbu, Nepal

Despite their scale, the Himalayas do not form a major watershed, and a number of rivers cut through the range, particularly in the eastern part of the range. As a result, the main ridge of the Himalayas is not clearly defined, and mountain passes are not as significant for traversing the range as with other mountain ranges. The rivers of the Himalayas drain into two large river systems:

The northern slopes of Gyala Peri and the peaks beyond the Tsangpo, sometimes included in the Himalayas, drain into the Irrawaddy River, which originates in eastern Tibet and flows south through Myanmar to drain into the Andaman Sea. The Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow River all originate from parts of the Tibetan Plateau that are geologically distinct from the Himalaya mountains and are therefore not considered true Himalayan rivers. Some geologists refer to all the rivers collectively as the circum-Himalayan rivers. [27]

Glaciers

The great ranges of central Asia, including the Himalayas, contain the third-largest deposit of ice and snow in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic. [28] The Himalayan range encompasses about 15,000 glaciers, which store about 12,000 km3 (2,900 cu mi) of fresh water. [29] Its glaciers include the Gangotri and Yamunotri (Uttarakhand) and Khumbu glaciers (Mount Everest region), Langtang glacier (Langtang region) and Zemu (Sikkim).

Icefall on Khumbu Glacier KhumbuIcefall.jpg
Icefall on Khumbu Glacier

Owing to the mountains' latitude near the Tropic of Cancer, the permanent snow line is among the highest in the world at typically around 5,500 m (18,000 ft). [30] In contrast, equatorial mountains in New Guinea, the Rwenzoris and Colombia have a snow line some 900 m (2,950 ft) lower. [31] The higher regions of the Himalayas are snowbound throughout the year, in spite of their proximity to the tropics, and they form the sources of several large perennial rivers.

In recent years, scientists have monitored a notable increase in the rate of glacier retreat across the region as a result of climate change. [32] [33] For example, glacial lakes have been forming rapidly on the surface of debris-covered glaciers in the Bhutan Himalaya during the last few decades. Although the effect of this will not be known for many years, it potentially could mean disaster for the hundreds of millions of people who rely on the glaciers to feed the rivers during the dry seasons. [34] [35] [36] The global climate change will affect the water resources and livelihoods of the Greater Himalayan region.

Lakes

Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim Gurudongmar lake North Sikkim.jpg
Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim

The Himalayan region is dotted with hundreds of lakes. [37] Pangong Tso, which is spread across the border between India and China, at far western end of Tibet, is among the largest with surface areas of 700 km2 (270 sq mi).

South of the main range, the lakes are smaller. Tilicho Lake in Nepal in the Annapurna massif is one of the highest lakes in the world. Other notable lakes include Rara Lake in western Nepal, She-Phoksundo Lake in the Shey Phoksundo National Park of Nepal, Gurudongmar Lake, in North Sikkim, Gokyo Lakes in Solukhumbu district of Nepal and Lake Tsongmo, near the Indo-China border in Sikkim. [37]

Some of the lakes present a danger of a glacial lake outburst flood. The Tsho Rolpa glacier lake in the Rowaling Valley, in the Dolakha District of Nepal, is rated as the most dangerous. The lake, which is located at an altitude of 4,580 m (15,030 ft) has grown considerably over the last 50 years due to glacial melting. [38] [39] The mountain lakes are known to geographers as tarns if they are caused by glacial activity. Tarns are found mostly in the upper reaches of the Himalaya, above 5,500 m (18,000 ft). [40]

Temperate Himalayan wetlands provide important habitat and layover sites for migratory birds. Many mid and low altitude lakes remain poorly studied in terms of their hydrology and biodiversity, like Khecheopalri in the Sikkim Eastern Himalayas. [41]

Climate

Temperature

The physical factors determining the climate in any location in the Himalayas include latitude, altitude, and the relative motion of the Southwest monsoon. [42] From south to north, the mountains cover more than eight degrees of latitude, spanning temperate to subtropical zones. [42] The colder air of Central Asia is prevented from blowing down into South Asia by the physical configuration of the Himalayas. [42] This causes the tropical zone to extend farther north in South Asia than anywhere else in the world. [42] The evidence is unmistakable in the Brahmaputra valley as the warm air from the Bay of Bengal bottlenecks and rushes up past Namcha Barwa, the eastern anchor of the Himalayas, and into southeastern Tibet. [42] Temperatures in the Himalayas cool by 2.0 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) for every 300 metres (980 ft) increase of altitude. [42]

As the physical features of mountains are irregular, with broken jagged contours, there can be wide variations in temperature over short distances. [43] Temperature at a location on a mountain depends on the season of the year, the bearing of the sun with respect to the face on which the location lies, and the mass of the mountain, i.e. the amount of matter in the mountain. [43] As the temperature is directly proportional to received radiation from the sun, the faces that receive more direct sunlight also have a greater heat buildup. [43] In narrow valleyslying between steep mountain facesthere can be dramatically different weather along their two margins. [43] The side to the north with a mountain above facing south can have an extra month of the growing season. [43] The mass of the mountain also influences the temperature, as it acts as a heat island, in which more heat is absorbed and retained than the surroundings, and therefore influences the heat budget or the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature from the winter minimum winter to the summer maximum. [43] The immense scale of the Himalayas means that many summits can create their own weather, the temperature fluctuating from one summit to another, from one face to another, and all may be quite different from the weather in nearby plateaus or valleys. [43]

Precipitation

A critical influence on the Himalayan climate is the Southwest Monsoon. This is not so much the rain of the summer months as the wind that carries the rain. [43] Different rates of heating and cooling between the Central Asian continent and the South Asian ocean create large differences in the atmospheric pressure prevailing above each. [43] In the winter, a high-pressure system forms and remains suspended above Central Asia, forcing air to flow in the southerly direction over the Himalayas. [43] But in Central Asia as there is no substantial source for water to be diffused as vapour, the winter winds blowing across South Asia are dry. [43] In the summer months the Central Asian plateau heats up more than the ocean waters to its south. As a result, the air above it rises higher and higher, creating a zone of low pressure. [43] Off-shore high-pressure systems in the Indian Ocean push the moist summer air inland toward the low-pressure system. When the moist air meets mountains, it rises and upon subsequent cooling, its moisture condenses and is released as rain, typically heavy rain. [43] The wet summer monsoon winds cause precipitation in India and all along the layered southern slopes of the Himalayas. This forced lifting of air is called the orographic effect. [43]

Winds

The vast size, huge altitude range, and complex topography of the Himalayas mean they experience a wide range of climates, from humid subtropical in the foothills to cold and dry desert conditions on the Tibetan side of the range. For much of the Himalayas—in the areas to the south of the high mountains, the monsoon is the most characteristic feature of the climate and causes most of the precipitation, while the western disturbance brings winter precipitation, especially in the west. Heavy rain arrives on the southwest monsoon in June and persists until September. The monsoon can seriously impact transport and cause major landslides. It restricts tourism – the trekking and mountaineering season is limited to either before the monsoon in April/May or after the monsoon in October/November (autumn). In Nepal and Sikkim, there are often considered to be five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, (or post-monsoon), winter, and spring.

Using the Köppen climate classification, the lower elevations of the Himalayas, reaching in mid-elevations in central Nepal (including the Kathmandu valley), are classified as Cwa, Humid subtropical climate with dry winters. Higher up, most of the Himalayas have a subtropical highland climate (Cwb).

The intensity of the southwest monsoon diminishes as it moves westward along the range, with as much as 2,030 mm (80 in) of rainfall in the monsoon season in Darjeeling in the east, compared to only 975 mm (38.4 in) during the same period in Shimla in the west. [44] [45]

The northern side of the Himalayas, also known as the Tibetan Himalaya, is dry, cold and, generally, windswept particularly in the west where it has a cold desert climate. The vegetation is sparse and stunted and the winters are severely cold. Most of the precipitation in the region is in the form of snow during the late winter and spring months.

View on Gyakar (edited).jpg
The cold desert region of Upper Mustang; the region lies to the north of the Annapurna massif (visible in the background)
BhurjungKhola-AK1981.jpg
A village in the Pokhara Valley during the monsoon season; the valley lies to the south of the Annapurna massif

Local impacts on climate are significant throughout the Himalayas. Temperatures fall by 0.2 to 1.2 °C for every 100 m (330 ft) rise in altitude. [46] This gives rise to a variety of climates from a nearly tropical climate in the foothills, to tundra and permanent snow and ice at higher elevations. Local climate is also affected by the topography: The leeward side of the mountains receive less rain while the well exposed slopes get heavy rainfall and the rain shadow of large mountains can be significant, for example leading to near desert conditions in the Upper Mustang which is sheltered from the monsoon rains by the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs and has annual precipitation of around 300 mm (12 in), while Pokhara on the southern side of the massifs has substantial rainfall (3,900 mm or 150 in a year). Thus although annual precipitation is generally higher in east than the west, local variations are often more important.

The Himalayas have a profound effect on the climate of the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan Plateau. They prevent frigid, dry winds from blowing south into the subcontinent, which keeps South Asia much warmer than corresponding temperate regions in the other continents. It also forms a barrier for the monsoon winds, keeping them from traveling northwards, and causing heavy rainfall in the Terai region. The Himalayas are also believed to play an important part in the formation of Central Asian deserts, such as the Taklamakan and Gobi. [47]

Climate change

Observed glacier mass loss in the HKH since the 20th century. HKH-Glacier-Mass-Change.png
Observed glacier mass loss in the HKH since the 20th century.

The 2019 Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment [48] concluded that between 1901 to 2014, the Hindu Kush Himalaya (or HKH) region had already experienced warming of 0.1 °C per decade, with the warming rate accelerating to 0.2 °C per decade over the past 50 years.Over the past 50 years, the frequency of warm days and nights had also increased by 1.2 days and 1.7 nights per decade, while the frequency of extreme warm days and nights had increased by 1.26 days and 2.54 nights per decade. There was also a corresponding decline of 0.5 cold days, 0.85 extreme cold days, 1 cold night, and 2.4 extreme cold nights per decade. The length of the growing season has increased by 4.25 days per decade. There is less conclusive evidence of light precipitation becoming less frequent while heavy precipitation became both more frequent and more intense. Finally, since 1970s glaciers have retreated everywhere in the region beside Karakoram, eastern Pamir, and western Kunlun, where there has been an unexpected increase in snowfall. Glacier retreat had been followed by an increase in the number of glacial lakes, some of which may be prone to dangerous floods. [49]

In the future, if the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5 °C of global warming is not exceeded, warming in the HKH will be at least 0.3 °C higher, and at least 0.7 °C higher in the hotspots of northwest Himalaya and Karakoram. If the Paris Agreement goals are broken, then the region is expected to warm by 1.7–2.4 °C in the near future (2036–2065) and by 2.2–3.3 °C (2066–2095) near the end of the century under the "intermediate" Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5). Under the high-warming RCP8.5 scenario where the annual emissions continue to increase for the rest of the century, the expected regional warming is 2.3–3.2 °C and 4.2–6.5 °C, respectively. Under all scenarios, winters will warm more than the summers, and the Tibetan Plateau, the central Himalayan Range, and the Karakoram will continue to warm more than the rest of the region. Climate change will also lead to the degradation of up to 81% of the region's permafrost by the end of the century. [49]

Future precipitation is projected to increase as well, but CMIP5 models struggle to make specific projections due to the region's topography: the most certain finding is that the monsoon precipitation in the region will increase by 4–12% in the near future and by 4–25% in the long term. [49] There has also been modelling of the changes in snow cover, but it is limited to the end of century under the RCP 8.5 scenario: it projects declines of 30–50% in the Indus Basin, 50–60% in the Ganges basin, and 50–70% in the Brahmaputra Basin, as the snowline elevation in these regions will rise by between 4.4 and 10.0 m/yr. There has been more extensive modelling of glacier trends: it is projected that one third of all glaciers in the extended HKH region will be lost by 2100 even if the warming is limited to 1.5 °C (with over half of that loss in the Eastern Himalaya region), while RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 are likely to lead to the losses of 50% and >67% of the region's glaciers over the same timeframe. Glacier melt is projected to accelerate regional river flows until the amount of meltwater peaks around 2060, going into an irreversible decline afterwards. Since precipitation will continue to increase even as the glacier meltwater contribution declines, annual river flows are only expected to diminish in the western basins where contribution from the monsoon is low: however, irrigation and hydropower generation would still have to adjust to greater interannual variability and lower pre-monsoon flows in all of the region's rivers. [50] [51] [52]

Ecology

The flora and fauna of the Himalayas vary with climate, rainfall, altitude, and soils. The climate ranges from tropical at the base of the mountains to permanent ice and snow at the highest elevations. The amount of yearly rainfall increases from west to east along the southern front of the range. This diversity of altitude, rainfall, and soil conditions combined with the very high snow line supports a variety of distinct plant and animal communities. [37] The extremes of high altitude (low atmospheric pressure) combined with extreme cold favor extremophile organisms. [53] [41]

At high altitudes, the elusive and previously endangered snow leopard is the main predator. Its prey includes members of the goat family grazing on the alpine pastures and living on the rocky terrain, notably the endemic bharal or Himalayan blue sheep. The Himalayan musk deer is also found at high altitudes. Hunted for its musk, it is now rare and endangered. Other endemic or near-endemic herbivores include the Himalayan tahr, the takin, the Himalayan serow, and the Himalayan goral. The critically endangered Himalayan subspecies of the brown bear is found sporadically across the range as is the Asian black bear. In the mountainous mixed deciduous and conifer forests of the eastern Himalayas, Red panda feed in the dense understories of bamboo. Lower down the forests of the foothills are inhabited by several different primates, including the endangered Gee's golden langur and the Kashmir gray langur, with highly restricted ranges in the east and west of the Himalayas respectively. [41]

The unique floral and faunal wealth of the Himalayas is undergoing structural and compositional changes due to climate change. Hydrangea hirta is an example of floral species that can be found in this area. The increase in temperature is shifting various species to higher elevations. The oak forest is being invaded by pine forests in the Garhwal Himalayan region. There are reports of early flowering and fruiting in some tree species, especially rhododendron, apple and box myrtle . The highest known tree species in the Himalayas is Juniperus tibetica located at 4,900 m (16,080 ft) in Southeastern Tibet. [54]

The mountainous areas of Hindu Kush range are mostly barren or at the most sparsely sprinkled with trees and stunted bushes. From about 1,300 to 2,300 m (4,300 to 7,500 ft), states Yarshater, "sclerophyllous forests are predominant with Quercus and Olea (wild olive); above that, up to a height of about 3,300 m (10,800 ft) one finds coniferous forests with Cedrus, Picea, Abies, Pinus, and junipers". The inner valleys of the Hindu Kush see little rain and have desert vegetation. [55] On the other hand, Eastern Himalaya is home to multiple biodiversity hotspots, and 353 new species (242 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, two birds, two mammals and 61+ invertebrates) have been discovered there in between 1998 and 2008, with an average of 35 new species finds every year. With Eastern Himalaya included, the entire Hindu Kush Himalaya region is home to an estimated 35,000+ species of plants and 200+ species of animals. [48]

Religions

Taktshang.jpg
The Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan, also known as the "Tiger's Nest"
Harmukh Mountain.jpg
Harmukh is a sacred mountain for Hindus located in the Himalayas north of Kashmir Valley.

There are many cultural and mythological aspects associated with the Himalayas. In Jainism, Mount Ashtapad of the Himalayan mountain range, is a sacred place where the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhdeva attained moksha. It is believed that after Rishabhdeva attained nirvana , his son, Emperor Bharata Chakravartin, had constructed three stupas and twenty four shrines of the 24 Tirthankaras with their idols studded with precious stones over there and named it Sinhnishdha. [56] [57] [58] For the Hindus, the Himalayas are personified as Himavat, king of all mountains and the father of the goddess Parvati. [59] The Himalayas are also considered to be the father of Ganga (the personification of river Ganges). [60] Two of the most sacred places of pilgrimage for the Hindus are the temple complex in Pashupatinath and Muktinath, also known as Saligrama because of the presence of the sacred black rocks called saligrams. [61]

The Buddhists also lay a great deal of importance on the Himalayas. Paro Taktsang is the holy place where Buddhism started in Bhutan. [62] The Muktinath is also a place of pilgrimage for the Tibetan Buddhists. They believe that the trees in the poplar grove came from the walking sticks of eighty-four ancient Indian Buddhist magicians or mahasiddhas. They consider the saligrams to be representatives of the Tibetan serpent deity known as Gawo Jagpa. [63] The Himalayan people's diversity shows in many different ways. It shows through their architecture, their languages, and dialects, their beliefs and rituals, as well as their clothing. [63] The shapes and materials of the people's homes reflect their practical needs and beliefs. Another example of the diversity amongst the Himalayan peoples is that handwoven textiles display colors and patterns unique to their ethnic backgrounds. Finally, some people place great importance on jewelry. The Rai and Limbu women wear big gold earrings and nose rings to show their wealth through their jewelry. [63] Several places in the Himalayas are of religious significance in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. A notable example of a religious site is Paro Taktsang, where Padmasambhava is said to have founded Buddhism in Bhutan. [64]

A number of Vajrayana Buddhist sites are situated in the Himalayas, in Tibet, Bhutan and in the Indian regions of Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Spiti and Darjeeling. There were over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet, including the residence of the Dalai Lama. [65] Bhutan, Sikkim and Ladakh are also dotted with numerous monasteries.

Resources

The Himalayas are home to a diversity of medicinal resources. Plants from the forests have been used for millennia to treat conditions ranging from simple coughs to snake bites. [61] Different parts of the plants – root, flower, stem, leaves, and bark – are used as remedies for different ailments. For example, a bark extract from an Abies pindrow tree is used to treat coughs and bronchitis. Leaf and stem paste from an Andrachne cordifolia is used for wounds and as an antidote for snake bites. The bark of a Callicarpa arborea is used for skin ailments. [61] Nearly a fifth of the gymnosperms, angiosperms and pteridophytes in the Himalayas are found to have medicinal properties, and more are likely to be discovered. [61]

Most of the population in some Asian and African countries depends on medicinal plants rather than prescriptions and such. [59] Since so many people use medicinal plants as their only source of healing in the Himalayas, the plants are an important source of income. This contributes to economic and modern industrial development both inside and outside the region. [59] The only problem is that locals are rapidly clearing the forests on the Himalayas for wood, often illegally. [66]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geography of India</span> Geography of the country of India

India is situated north of the equator between 8°4' north to 37°6' north latitude and 68°7' east to 97°25' east longitude. It is the seventh-largest country in the world, with a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometres (1,269,219 sq mi). India measures 3,214 km (1,997 mi) from north to south and 2,933 km (1,822 mi) from east to west. It has a land frontier of 15,200 km (9,445 mi) and a coastline of 7,516.6 km (4,671 mi).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kangchenjunga</span> Third highest mountain in the world

Kangchenjunga, also spelled Kanchenjunga, Kanchanjanghā, and Khangchendzonga, is the third highest mountain in the world. Its summit lies at 8,586 m (28,169 ft) in a section of the Himalayas, the Kangchenjunga Himal, which is bounded in the west by the Tamur River, in the north by the Lhonak River and Jongsang La, and in the east by the Teesta River. It lies in the border region between Nepal and Sikkim state of India, with three of the five peaks, namely Main, Central and South, directly on the border, and the peaks West and Kangbachen in Nepal's Taplejung District.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geography of Nepal</span> Geographical features of Nepal

Nepal measures about 880 kilometers (547 mi) along its Himalayan axis by 150 to 250 kilometers across. It has an area of 147,516 km2 (56,956 sq mi).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hindu Kush</span> Mountain range near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan

The Hindu Kush is an 800-kilometre-long (500 mi) mountain range in Central and South Asia to the west of the Himalayas. It stretches from central and western Afghanistan into northwestern Pakistan and far southeastern Tajikistan. The range forms the western section of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region (HKH); to the north, near its northeastern end, the Hindu Kush buttresses the Pamir Mountains near the point where the borders of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet, after which it runs southwest through Pakistan and into Afghanistan near their border. The eastern end of the Hindu Kush in the north merges with the Karakoram Range. Towards its southern end, it connects with the Spin Ghar Range near the Kabul River. It divides the valley of the Amu Darya to the north from the Indus River valley to the south. The range has numerous high snow-capped peaks, with the highest point being Tirich Mir or Terichmir at 7,708 metres (25,289 ft) in the Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geography of Bhutan</span>

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a sovereign nation, located towards the eastern extreme of the Himalayas mountain range. It is fairly evenly sandwiched between the sovereign territory of two nations: first, the People's Republic of China on the north and northwest. There are approximately 477 kilometres of border with that nation's Tibet Autonomous Region. The second nation is the Republic of India on the south, southwest, and east; there are approximately 659 kilometres with the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, and Sikkim, in clockwise order from the kingdom. Bhutan's total borders amount to 1,139 kilometres. The Republic of Nepal to the west, the India to the south, and the Union of Myanmar to the southeast are other close neighbours; the former two are separated by only very small stretches of Indian territory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Karakoram</span> Major mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, China, and India

The Karakoram is a mountain range in Kashmir spanning the borders of Pakistan, China, and India, with the northwest extremity of the range extending to Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Most of the Karakoram mountain range falls under the jurisdiction of Gilgit-Baltistan, which is controlled by Pakistan. Its highest peak, K2, is located in Gilgit-Baltistan. It begins in the Wakhan Corridor (Afghanistan) in the west, encompasses the majority of Gilgit-Baltistan, and extends into Ladakh and Aksai Chin. It is the second highest mountain range in the world and part of the complex of ranges including the Pamir Mountains, the Hindu Kush and the Himalayan Mountains. The Karakoram has eighteen summits over 7,500 m (24,600 ft) in height, with four exceeding 8,000 m (26,000 ft): K2, the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geography of Tibet</span> Geographical aspects of historical Tibet

The geography of Tibet consists of the high mountains, lakes and rivers lying between Central, East and South Asia. Traditionally, Western sources have regarded Tibet as being in Central Asia, though today's maps show a trend toward considering all of modern China, including Tibet, to be part of East Asia. Tibet is often called "the roof of the world," comprising tablelands averaging over 4,950 metres above the sea with peaks at 6,000 to 7,500 m, including Mount Everest, on the border with Nepal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mount Kailash</span> Religious mountain in Tibet Autonomous Region

Mount Kailash, is a mountain in the Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It has an altitude of 6,714 m (22,028 ft). It lies in the Kailash Range of the Transhimalaya, in the western part of the Tibetan Plateau. Mount Kailash is less than 100 km towards the north from the western trijunction of the borders of China, India, and Nepal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tibetan Plateau</span> Plateau in Central, South and East Asia

The Tibetan Plateau, also known as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau or as the Himalayan Plateau in India, is a vast elevated plateau located at the intersection of Central, South and East Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region, most of Qinghai, western half of Sichuan, Southern Gansu provinces in Western China, southern Xinjiang, Bhutan, the Indian regions of Ladakh and Lahaul and Spiti as well as Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan, northwestern Nepal, eastern Tajikistan and southern Kyrgyzstan. It stretches approximately 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) north to south and 2,500 kilometres (1,600 mi) east to west. It is the world's highest and largest plateau above sea level, with an area of 2,500,000 square kilometres (970,000 sq mi). With an average elevation exceeding 4,500 metres (14,800 ft) and being surrounded by imposing mountain ranges that harbor the world's two highest summits, Mount Everest and K2, the Tibetan Plateau is often referred to as "the Roof of the World".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geology of the Himalayas</span> Origins and structure of the mountain range

The geology of the Himalayas is a record of the most dramatic and visible creations of the immense mountain range formed by plate tectonic forces and sculpted by weathering and erosion. The Himalayas, which stretch over 2400 km between the Namcha Barwa syntaxis at the eastern end of the mountain range and the Nanga Parbat syntaxis at the western end, are the result of an ongoing orogeny — the collision of the continental crust of two tectonic plates, namely, the Indian Plate thrusting into the Eurasian Plate. The Himalaya-Tibet region supplies fresh water for more than one-fifth of the world population, and accounts for a quarter of the global sedimentary budget. Topographically, the belt has many superlatives: the highest rate of uplift, the highest relief, among the highest erosion rates at 2–12 mm/yr, the source of some of the greatest rivers and the highest concentration of glaciers outside of the polar regions. This last feature earned the Himalaya its name, originating from the Sanskrit for "the abode of the snow".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pithoragarh district</span> District of Uttarakhand in India

Pithoragarh district is the easternmost district in the state of Uttarakhand. It is located in the Himalayas and has an area of 7,110 km2 (2,750 sq mi) and a population of 483,439. The city of Pithoragarh, located in Saur Valley, is its headquarters. The district is within the Kumaon division of Uttarakhand state. The Tibet plateau is situated to the north and Nepal is to the east. The Kali River which originates from the Kalagiri Mountain flows south, forming the eastern border with Nepal. The Hindu pilgrimage route for Mount Kailash-Lake Manasarovar passes through this district via Lipulekh Pass in the greater Himalayas. The district is administratively divided into six Tehsils: Munsyari; Dharchula; Didihat; Berinag; Gangolihat; and Pithoragarh. Naini Saini Airport is the nearest civil airport, but it does not have a regular scheduled commercial passenger service. The mineral deposits present in the district are magnesium ore, copper ore, limestone, and slate. There are 11 tehsils.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Namcha Barwa</span> Mountain in Tibet, China

Namcha Barwa or Namchabarwa is a mountain peak lying in Tibet in the region of Pemako. The traditional definition of the Himalaya extending from the Indus River to the Brahmaputra would make it the eastern anchor of the entire mountain chain, and it is the highest peak of its own section as well as Earth's easternmost peak over 7,600 metres (24,900 ft). It lies in the Nyingchi Prefecture of Tibet. It is the highest peak in the 180 km long Namcha Barwa Himal range, which is considered the easternmost syntaxis/section of the Himalaya in southeastern Tibet and northeastern India where the Himalaya are said to end, although high ranges actually continue another 300 km east.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bhotekoshi River</span> River in Nepal

Bhote Koshi in Nepal and Poiqu in Tibet, both names roughly mean "Tibetan river," is the name given to the upper course of the Sun Kosi river. It is part of the Koshi River system in Nepal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Makalu Barun National Park</span>

Makalu Barun National Park is a national park in the Himalayas of Nepal that was established in 1992 as eastern extension of Sagarmatha National Park. It is the world's only protected area with an elevation gain of more than 8,000 m (26,000 ft) enclosing tropical forest as well as snow-capped peaks. It covers an area of 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi) in the Solukhumbu and Sankhuwasabha districts, and is surrounded by a bufferzone to the south and southeast with an area of 830 km2 (320 sq mi).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arun River (China–Nepal)</span> River in China and Nepal

The Arun River is a trans-boundary river and is part of the Kosi or Sapt Koshi river system in Nepal. It originates in Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China where it is called the Phung Chu or Bum-chu.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eastern Himalayas</span> Eastern half of the Himalayas mountain range

The Eastern Himalayas extend from eastern Nepal across Northeast India, Bhutan, the Tibet Autonomous Region to Yunnan in China and northern Myanmar. The climate of this region is influenced by the monsoon of South Asia from June to September. It is a biodiversity hotspot, with notable biocultural diversity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Transhimalaya</span> Mountain range in India and Tibet, parallel to the main Himalayan range

The Transhimalaya, or "Gangdise – Nyenchen Tanglha range", is a 1,600-kilometre-long (990 mi) mountain range in China, India and Nepal, extending in a west–east direction parallel to the main Himalayan range. Located north of Yarlung Tsangpo river on the southern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, the Transhimalaya is composed of the Gangdise range to the west and the Nyenchen Tanglha range to the east.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Langtang National Park</span> National Park of Nepal

Langtang National Park was established in 1976 as Nepal's first Himalayan national park and the country's fourth protected area. It exceeds an elevation range of 6,450 m (21,160 ft) and covers an area of 1,710 km2 (660 sq mi) in the Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhulpalchok Districts of the central Himalayan region. It encompasses 26 village communities and includes the Langtang valley. In the north and east it is linked with Qomolangma National Nature Preserve in Tibet Autonomous Region. The eastern and western boundaries follow the Bhote Koshi and the Trishuli river, respectively. The southern border lies 32 km (20 mi) north of the Kathmandu Valley.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sunkoshi River</span> River in Nepal

The Sunkoshi, also spelt Sunkosi, is a river of Nepal that is part of the Koshi or Saptkoshi River system in Nepal. Sunkoshi has two source streams, one that arises within Nepal in Choukati, and the other more significant stream that flows in from Nyalam County in the Tibet region of China. The latter is called Bhote Koshi in Nepal and Matsang Tsangpo in Tibet. Due to the signficant flows from Bhote Koshi, the Sun Koshi river basin is often regarded as a trans-border river basin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">High-mountain Asia</span>

High-Mountain Asia (HMA) is a high-elevation geographic region in Asia that includes numerous cordillera and highland systems around the Tibetan Plateau, encompassing regions of East, Southeast, Central and South Asia. The region was orogenically formed by the continental collision of the Indian Plate into the Eurasian Plate.

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