ISRO Scientists Discovers Red Himalayan Glacial Lake in Ladakh

Recently, ISRO Scientists Discovers Red Himalayan Glacial Lake in Ladakh. Scientists from Indian Space Research Organisation discovered an unusual reddish-brown waters lake in the Northeast Himalayas after compiling last 20 years remote sensing satellite data.

Features of Red Lake Geology

The red lake identified in the Ladakh Himalaya is a high-altitude lake located at ~5060 m amsl, average surface temperature of which varies from ~–16°C during winter to ~6°C during summer. The study area is located on the transition of Zanskar Tethyan Zone which formed during the progress of India-Asia collision that has resulted in the closure of the Neo-Tethys Ocean at ~55 Ma and Spontang ophiolite complex (SOC) which is an ophiolite klippe that overlies the volcano sedimentary mélange.

The meta-sedimentary rocks of the Zanskar Range contain ‘ferruginous formation’ rich in ironstone. The NE-facing glacier and catchment area feeding the red lake are located on these rock formations of Zanskar.

ISRO Scientists Discovers Red Himalayan Glacial Lake in Ladakh

ISRO Scientists Discovers Red Himalayan Glacial Lake in Ladakh 

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According to a study known as “Space-based Observation of a high-altitude red-colored glacial lake in Ladakh, Northwest Himalaya, India”, reddish brown lake is as big as New York City’s Grand Central Station.

Why It is Reddish in Color

Scientists believes that reddish color due to snow/ice meltwater interaction with local lithology. The local geology plays an important role, and iron-dominated lithology of the region interacts with snow and glacial meltwaters and subsequently deposits red/brown-colored suspended silt in this proglacial lake.

Spectral analysis of reflectance data from Sentinel-2 images in visible-infrared region of electromagnetic spectrum suggests that the color of the lake is due to high concentration of suspended solids, having dominant reflectance at 660-700 nm and thus causing the red/brown color of the water. More on Current Science.

Mechanism of Reddish Color Lake Formation

It has been reported that the glacier meltwater in the Himalayan regions is rich in chloride, bicarbonate and Sulphate ions which can form stable soluble complexes with Fe(2+) at pH ranging between ~ 7.0 and 8.0. The release of Fe(2+) in the meltwater could have been enhanced by interaction of Cl(-) rich meltwater with frozen iron oxide-rich fluids in the sub aerial sections of the catchment area.

Besides, microbially induced weathering of sub-glacial bedrock minerals could be another viable source of Fe(2+). However, differences in water residence times, water–rock ratios, refreezing at the water-ice interface, basal geologic conditions, and biological processes can produce different water chemistries, and hence need further studies.

Similar Kind of Lakes 

  • Lake Hillier in Western Australia is one of the pink lake and the coloration is due to algae Dunaliella Salina, which grows well in salty environment only.
  • Lonar Lake in Maharashtra has turned pink due to large presence of the salt-loving Haloarchaea microbes.
  • Dusty Rose Lake in British Columbia, Canada which is a glacial Lake turned pink in color due to surrounding rocks and not due to algae.
  • The Blood Falls of Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, contains a diverse microbial community that is metabolically active, and influences weathering and gives a reddish color.

Impact Due to Climate Change

Most of the lakes around the world are affected due to rise in temperature as a result of Global Warming. For example – Lake Baikal, the world’s largest lake, warming in both winter and summer is expected to be faster than the global mean, reducing the period of surface freezing during winter. More frequent extreme temperatures in summer and less winter freezing could affect species in other lakes. According to a study by the UK based Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, by 2080, the world’s lakes will experience a temperature change up to 6.7 degree Celsius due to green house gas emissions.

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