Teaching the Basics of Glacier Monitoring

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Practical issues such as health and safety are covered in the training sessions 

As part of monitoring and assessment of changes in glaciers, snow and glacio-hydrology in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, the Cryosphere Initiative of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) organised the week-long ‘Training on Glacier Mass Balance Monitoring’ 3 - 6 November 2015 at ICIMOD, in Kathmandu, Nepal.  

Sixteen participants from Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University and the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology of Government of Nepal attended the week-long training. The training was followed by an expedition to Yala Glacier in Langtang Valley where the participants received field training on glacier mass balance measurements. Two participants from the Department for Hydro Met Services, Government of Bhutan also joined the expedition.  

The training introduced methods to conduct glacier mass balance measurements on clean glacier in the Himalayas.  Sessions included theoretical and glacier mass balance training designed to prepare participants for the expedition to Yala.  Exercises included the analysis and interpretation of mass balance measurements. 

Dorjee Lama Sherpa, a licensed mountain guide, demonstrates various mountaineering tools. 

Glacier mass balance is a key indicator for understanding the impact of climate change and for predicting downstream water availability. Glacier monitoring research involves extensive fieldwork — stake installation on the accumulation and ablation zones of glaciers, digging snow pits and snow/ice core sampling to study snow thickness, type, etc. 

Participants also received mountain health and safety training at CIWEC Clinic Travel Medicine Center in Kathmandu. In addition, participants learned basic mountaineering skills. 

The expedition to Yala Glacier will be a first for most of the participants. Twenty four year old glaciology student at Kathmandu University, Saugat Paudel, said he was looking forward to practical lessons and getting firsthand knowledge about glacier mass balance monitoring in the field.

Similarly, 26 year old Mingma Yangji Sherpa, also a student at Kathmandu University, said the practical field sessions helped students just venturing into glaciology. Sherpa said glacio-hydrology was an important subject for the Hindu Kush Himalayan region as it is considered a hotbed for climate change and glaciers being one of the main indicators of climate change. 

The Cryosphere Initiative of ICIMOD is supported by the Norwegian Government and focuses on monitoring of glaciers, snow, and glacial lakes and glacio-hydrology with an emphasis on in-situ-measurements, remote sensing, and modelling.

Participants learn about basic mountaineering skills, a requirement for carrying out glacial mass balance measurements.