Cryosphere Initiative field activities for the autumn 2017

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A total of four research expeditions were carried out on research sites in Bhutan and Nepal as part of the data collection and research expedition by the Cryosphere Initiative under its cryosphere monitoring programme (CMP). Research sites include Thana Glacier in Bhutan, and Yala Glacier in Langtang Valley, Rikha Samba Glacier in the Hidden Valley, Mustang, Nepal. The field activities started in late August and ended in November 2017, just before the winter months kicked in. 

Thana glacier, Bhutan

In Bhutan, Sharad Joshi, Associate Glaciologist and two glaciologists from the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany, joined the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) of Bhutan for their annual cryosphere research expedition to Thana Glacier.

The team conducted annual glacier mass balance measurements on Thana Glacier using an approach that was different from ones used before. Thana is the reference glacier for long-term glacier monitoring in Bhutan.

Joshi provided technical support and trained NCHM team members in executing long-term mass balance monitoring and cryosphere research.

Measuring mass balance on Thana Glacier September 2017. Photo by Sharad Joshi/ICIMOD.

Rikha Sambha Glacier, Nepal

Rikha Samba Glacier in the Hidden Valley, Mustang is also one of the research sites for ICIMOD’s cryosphere programme. For the annual 2017 data collection, research associates Tika Gurung and Gunjan Silwal were joined by the personnel from Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), an implementing partner. 

During the 15-day expedition in October 2017, the group successfully carried out measurements and maintenance of the monitoring stake network, downloaded data from the hydrological station and Automatic Weather Station, and carried out discharge measurements in the Rikha Samba outlet.

Surveying for a spot to install a monitoring stake on the Rikha Samba Glacier, November 2017. (Photo by Tika Gurung, ICIMOD

Langtang valley, Nepal

A team of researchers from ICIMOD, Utrecht University (UU), the Netherlands, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), Norway, and the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), Nepal, were in Langtang Valley for Hydrometeorology and Snow Accumulation and Melt Process (SnowAMP) fieldwork from 15 October to 2 November 2017.

While in Langtang, the group downloaded data and carried out routine maintenance work of meteorological and hydrological stations. There are ten automatic weather stations (AWS) and two hydrological stations (HS) in the valley. They also collected river discharge measurements in the Langtang Khola at two gauging sites using salt tracer methods, and conducted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights above Lirung and Langtang Glaciers to determine bi-annual surface lowering and debris-surface temperatures. Stereo-imagery and ground control points were collected from Ganja La Pass to accurately determine snow line altitudes in a structure-for-motion effort. Soil moisture sensors were installed close to the Langtang Khola to provide additional field data for hydrological modelling of the catchment. 

The field team in front of the AWS on Yala Glacier. 
(L-R): Inka Koch, ICIMOD, Rudra Pariyar (DHM), Passang Sherpa (mountain guide from Thamserku Trekking), Tuomo Saloranta (NVE) and Jacob Steiner (UU), Usmar Hellmer (UU), Walter Immerzeel (UU) (Photo by Tashi Sherpa, Expedition member).

Yala Glacier, Nepal

The expedition to Yala Glacier in November 2017 was a part of ICIMOD’s training on glacier monitoring for students, academics, and practitioners from Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan. Before the field expedition, participants attended five days intensive training on theoretical aspects of glacier monitoring and basic mountaineering.  For the expedition to Yala, training participants were accompanied by two resource persons from the DHM.  

On Yala Glacier, participants were trained on monitoring glacier mass balance with stake and snow pit measurements, surveying glacier terminus and surface, and taking velocity measurements and repeat photographs of Yala Glacier.  They also learned about deploying temperature loggers for permafrost studies. 

During mountaineering and safety, practical training on Yala Glacier Pasang Kaji Sherpa certified guide explaining the purpose and use of mountaineering gear before the glacier traverse. 
Photo by Nirakar Thapa, DHM