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The Himalayan Cryosphere: Past and Present

Himalayan cryosphereThis volume represents a follow up to the XII International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Science, organised by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Its aim is to address the existing highly variable base-level data on the Himalayan cryosphere by providing new data from locations distributed over the Himalaya region and Tibet, providing some insight into the late Quaternary cryosphere over a wide area. The Himalayan cryosphere contains the third-largest expanse of ice cover in the world and has been described as the ‘third pole’, with the Himalayas the source of ten major rivers that support one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Understanding the impact of the current warming trend on glacier dynamics and recession rates, and in turn the hydrological budget, is crucial to developing appropriate sustainable strategies which support and protect the many who are likely to be impacted.

The volume brings together twelve papers, preceded by an introductory paper by the Editors which usefully sets the scene. It is split into three main sections addressing the ‘Past’, the ‘Present’ and ‘Sustainability’, containing four, six and two papers respectively. The papers in the first section,‘Past’, cover ice-cored palaeoclimate studies, formation and breaching of two palaeoalakes, depth profiling and recessional history of glaciers and geomorphic evolution of a glacier-fed valley in the context of Late Quaternary climate change, monsoon dynamics and glacial fluctuations.

The second section on the ‘Present’ contains papers on the precipitation perspective of the hydrosphere-cryosphere interaction, development of an algorithm for estimation of snow-cover fraction, mass-balance modelling of a glacier, annual cycle of temperature and snowmelt runoff, temporal variations in snow albedo and wintertime surface energy balance of high-altitude seasonal snow surface.

The third and final section of the volume on ‘Sustainability’ contains only two, but nevertheless important papers, covering sustainable development and geohazard mitigations through an understanding of Earth surface processes and landscape evolution, and the hydrological budget in the context of sustainability of water resources in high mountain Asia.

Overall the volume is well produced and edited, suitably illustrated and achieves its aims. It should appeal to a wide geological/geomorphological audience, particularly those with an interest in climate change impact over higher altitudes and the implications for glacier dynamics and recession rates. Hopefully this volume will be a catalyst for inspiring further research on the subject, particularly on the sustainability aspects covered.

Reviewed by Dr Colin J. Serridge

The Himalayan Cryosphere: Past and Present by Pant, N.C., Ravindra, R., Srivastava, D. and Thompson, L.G. (editors). Geological Society of London Special Publication No 462. 2018. Geological Society of London. ISBN 978-1-78620-324-3. Hbk. 216 pp. ISSN  0305-8719. List Price : £90.00, www.geolsoc.org.uk