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Hindu Kush Himalayan Region

Paper: General Studies 1
Topic: geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

Why in the news?

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will collaborate with meteorological agencies in China and Pakistan, among others, to provide climate forecast services to countries in the region.
  • This will help to better gauge the impact of climate change on the Hindu Kush mountains, including the Himalayas, and spruce up data-gathering.

About the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) Region:

  • The Hindu-Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region is considered the Third Pole [after the North and South Poles], and has significant implications for climate.
  • The HKH region spans Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. It traverses about 5 million square kilometres and hosts a large and culturally diverse population. The Third Pole, which contains vast cryospheric zones, is also the world’s largest store of snow and ice outside the polar region.
  • Alongside forecasting weather over long periods, the regional centres would provide data services, training and capacity-building, research and development.
  • International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional intergovernmental body released the first-ever assessment of climate change impacts on the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region last month. It found that HKH region is warming faster than the global average. It would continue to warm through this century even if the world is able to limit global warming at the agreed 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • The number of glaciers in the Himalayan area has increased in the last five decades and this is an indicator of how severe glacier melting has been due to global warming. The increase in the number of glaciers is primarily due to glacier fragmentation — that big ones are splitting into smaller ones. And this is happening due to consistent loss in areas the glaciers occupy.

 

Impact of Climate Change in the HKH region:

  • This region is a heat source in summer and a heat sink in winter.
  • Along with the Tibetan Plateau, this influences the Indian summer monsoon. So, any changes in this region would have a bearing on the monsoon itself that already shows signs of changes in spread and distribution.
  • It could trigger a multitude of biophysical and socio-economic impacts, such as biodiversity loss, increased glacial melting, and less predictable water availability—all of which will impact livelihoods and well-being in the HKH.
  • Faster snow and glacier melting due to warming is already manifesting in formation of glacial lakes. Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) are becoming frequent and causing huge casualties and loss to local infrastructures.
  • Glaciers in HKH have been retreating faster, and consistently causing greater water flows in rivers. In Tibetan Plateau, river runoff has increased by 5.5 per cent.

 

Nobel Prize in Physics
Paper: General Studies 3
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

Why in the news?

  • The Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 was awarded “for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos” with one half to James Peebles “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology”, the other half jointly to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz “for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.”
  • Peebles, his mentor and two colleagues laid out the basic explanation of what the CMB is and how it relates to the Big Bang.

What is an exoplanet?

  • All of the planets in our solar system orbit around the Sun. Planets that orbit around other stars are called exoplanets. Exoplanets are very hard to see with telescopes. They are hidden by the bright glare of the stars they orbit.
  • So, astronomers use other ways to detect and study these distant planets. They search for exoplanets by looking at the effects these planets have on the stars they orbit.

What is cosmic background microwave radiation?

  • The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is thought to be leftover radiation from the Big Bang, or the time when the universe began. As the theory goes, when the universe was born it underwent a rapid inflation and expansion. The CMB represents the heat left over from the Big Bang.
  • You can’t see the CMB with your naked eye, but it is everywhere in the universe. It is invisible to humans because it is so cold, just 2.725 degrees above absolute zero (minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 273.15 degrees Celsius.) This means its radiation is most visible in the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

 

Nobel Prize in Medicine
Paper: General Studies 3
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

Why in the news?

  • The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.” They identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen.
  • Their work established the genetic mechanisms that allow cells to respond to changes in oxygen levels. The findings have implications for treating a variety of diseases, including cancer, anemia, heart attacks and strokes.