Studies on Himalayan caves to help in climate forecast

Himalayan limestone caves will be an effective instrument of forecasting the climate of the region.

Last Updated: Nov 28, 2010, 11:05 AM IST

Pithoragarh (Uttarakhand): Himalayan limestone caves will be an effective instrument of forecasting the climate of the region in future with the help of studies being conducted on the climatic trend of the last 3,000 years, says a geologists working on it.

"We will not only be able to find the climatic trends in
Himalayan region during last 3,000 years but also forecast the
future trends as well," said Dr BS Kotlia, a geologist of
Kumaun University who is working on three projects of studying
limestone caves in Uttarakhand in order to determine the
climatic conditions in the past.

"We are studying year-to-year climatic conditions of last
three thousand years in Uttarakhand making these limestone
caves a symptom of climate change," he said.

Kotlia said that his studies on limestone caves of the
region will focus on the climatic conditions that had
prevailed during the last 3,000 years.

"It will reflect the rainfall and temperature from year
to year as well as the trend of climate," he said.

The Himalayan caves are made of limestone which
contains calcium carbonate which is soluble in water, he said.

"As raindrops fall on calcium carbonate, it dissolves
with water and a blank part of other stones remains during the
course of a period of thousands of years as carving on the
caves," said Kotlia.

"Every year, rainfall forms a ring on the stone in an
upward direction. We study that ring at 400 times magnified
form before doing uranium thorium dating on them," said
Kotlia, adding, if a limestone rock has to be studied for
climate change it should contain at least 1 PPM of uranium on
it.

Asked why he did not take the period prior to 3,000
years, Kotlia said in the time before that the Himalayan
region was fully snow-covered for about 22,000 years.

"From 16,000 years back in time from today, the snow,
which had covered the area upto Haldwani and Kotdwar started
melting and thereafter the climate of the region changed
frequently, witnessing thousand times extreme cold and hot
conditions, symptoms of which are still seen in the limestone
caves," he said.

According to the geologist, he has studied 32 caves in
Pithoragarh, Chaukhutia (Ahmorg) and Chakrata (Garhwal) for
his project along with some lakes of Garhwal.

"Some of these caves are as high as 3-storeyed buildings
bearing on them the marks of various frequencies of climate in
the last 3,000 years," said Kotlia.

PTI