Learning to Monitor Glacier Health

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Finu Shrestha, research associate GIS, ICIMOD conducts hands on exercises on glacier mapping.

The Cryosphere Initiative of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with the Department of Hydro-Met Services (DHMS), Bhutan organised a five day training on “Application of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems for Mapping and Monitoring of Glacier at the DHMS conference hall in Thimphu, Bhutan from 16 - 20 November 2015.

Ten professionals, including four female from DHMS, Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) and Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) attended the training. Sessions included an introduction to the tools of remote sensing (RS) and geographic information systems (GIS) and their application with regard to glacier mapping and generating Bhutan’s glacier database. 

The training was the first of its kind under the Cryosphere Monitoring Programme-Bhutan (CMP-B), a joint project between DHMS and ICIMOD. CMP-B is a four-year project funded by Royal Norwegian Government through ICIMOD’s Cryosphere Initiative. 

In 2014, ICIMOD carried out a repeat decadal glacier mapping from Landsat images of 1977/78 (~1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010) of Bhutan Himalaya. The result showed 23.3 ± 0.9% glacial area loss between ~1980 and 2010, with the highest loss between ~1980 and 1990 and the lowest between 2000 and 2010. The glacier area in Bhutan covers 1.6% of the total land cover.

During the closing ceremony, Karma Tshering, director, DHMS who awarded certificates to the participants thanked ICIMOD for providing training support and their commitment to building the capacity of organisations in Bhutan in glacier mapping and monitoring. 

Tshering highlighted the need for training in Bhutan since their remote glaciers make remote sensing techniques the most reliable and appropriate sources for cryosphere monitoring. 

'Skills and knowledge gained from these trainings gives competence to our colleagues to explore glaciers and share knowledge about implementing glacier research and activities’, Tshering said. 

One of the participants, Tshering Tashi, chief engineer of Snow and Glacier Division, DHMS appreciated the training for providing a broader understanding of snow and glaciers.  

'There was no such visibility in glacier mapping before, but this training has created a base. We look forward to working on glaciers using GIS and RS software’, Tashi said. 

DHMS Director Karma Tshering awards certificates to participants of the training.