Training in glacier mass balance monitoring a first in Nepal

18 May 2009

   TwitCount

Last week saw the culmination of a 17-day regional course with hands-on practical training on the Yala glacier in Langtang, Nepal, on monitoring of glacier growth and retreat held from 27 April to 15 May 2009. Some 18 trainees from Nepal, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan learned how to make measurements and calculate the total mass of a glacier through lectures and practical exercises.

During the closing ceremony, the Honourable Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Mr Ganesh Shah, handed out certificates of achievement to the tired but happy trainees, remarking “We hope that this training course will help Nepal to establish a long term monitoring scheme on at least one glacier in our country”. Mr Adarsha P Pokhrel, Chair of the Nepal National Committee for UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme (IHP), added that the Mera peak glacier in the Khumbu region has been identified as a benchmark glacier for Nepal. “It is now crucial that resources can be made available to secure a monitoring scheme for Nepal with a long term vision”.

The mass balance of a glacier is the net result of the amount of snow added in a season or ‘income’ – and the loss of snow and ice through melting – the ‘expenditure’. This is the universally accepted method for monitoring changes in the volume of a glacier. If the ‘income’ exceeds the ‘expenditure’ over a number of years, the glacier will grow in volume, whereas if melting exceeds the amount of snow accumulated the glacier will shrink. Simply measuring the length is not enough as the glacier may grow thinner or thicker before the change becomes obvious.

“The current intensive discussion on impact of climate change on Himalayan glaciers and what it means for downstream water availability calls for an improved regional concerted and coordinated monitoring scheme of glaciers in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region” says Dr Mats Eriksson, senior water specialist at ICIMOD. Professor Georg Kaser, International Association of Cryospheric Sciences added that “the large amount of glaciers in the Himalayan region is not reflected in the global data set on snow and ice, and therefore measurements need to be intensified in this part of the world”.
The training was organised jointly by UNESCO, ICIMOD, the Nepal National IHP Committee, the HKH-FRIEND group on snow and glaciers, and the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS).

For further information contact:  
Dr Mats Eriksson
Tel: +977-1-5003222
Fax: +977 1 5003299
Email: meriksson@icimod.org