The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region contains the largest areas of snow, glaciers, and permafrost outside of the polar region. This vast accumulation of snow and glaciers acts as a natural water reserve, feeding ten major Asian river systems.
Increased glacier melt due to rising temperatures especially at higher altitudes, increased frequency and magnitude of associated extreme weather events, and shifts in monsoon patterns impact the amount and timing of water availability for agriculture, domestic needs, industry, and hydropower. This also affects the water needed to maintain ecosystem services. It is critical to improve our understanding of the changes taking place in the cryosphere and determine their implications for the region’s water reserve and management.
The Cryosphere Initiative hosted within the Regional Programme on Cryosphere and Atmosphere of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) focuses on the monitoring of glaciers, snow, permafrost, glacial lakes, and glacio-hydrology with an emphasis on in situ measurements, remote sensing, and modelling.
The Cryosphere Initiative, with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and partners, works to establish ICIMOD as a Regional Cryosphere Knowledge Hub to collate and share the knowledge of partners working in the region. Working with regional and international institutions that focus on cryosphere and cryosphere hydrology, the Initiative is enhancing the capacity of institutions in ICIMOD’s regional member countries to generate and access relevant data and knowledge about the cryosphere and sustained cryosphere monitoring. This work will contribute to the development of effective measures and policies for water resources and risk management in the HKH region.