Dendrochronological reconstruction of snow avalanche activity in the Lahul Himalaya, Northern India
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Mass wasting and avalanche events substantially impact the landscape morphology and consequently human habitation throughout the Himalaya. There is, however, a paucity of snow avalanche documentation for the region. The application of dendrochronologic research methods introduces a sensitive approach to document the recurrence of snow avalanche events in a region where historical records are either non-existent or difficult to access. An exploratory dendrochronologic study was undertaken in the Lahul Himalaya of Northern India during the summer of 2006. Included within the fieldwork was an assessment of avalanche track morphology to enable identification of the slope characteristics that might be associated with an increase in avalanche activity. Thirty-six trees growing on the Ratoli avalanche track were sampled. The oldest tree was a Cedrus deodara with a pith date of 1950. A tree-ring-derived avalanche response curve highlights four avalanche events that occurred from 1972 to 2006. The successful scientific results based on the application of the method used provide the basis for local planners to quantify slope failure hazards in forested areas throughout the western Himalaya.