Cryosphere and Atmosphere

ICIMOD’s work on the cryosphere focuses on the monitoring of glaciers, snow, and glacial lakes; glaciohydrology with an emphasis on modelling; and remote sensing and in situ measurements including mass balance measurements. The programme aims to build a regional cryosphere knowledge hub to collate and share knowledge of partners working in the region, and to build capacity to study the cryosphere, working with institutions that focus on glaciology which countries throughout the region have been establishing.

Atmospheric pollution in the form of black carbon aerosols emitted during incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass has increased significantly in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region in the past two decades. Absorption of sunlight by black carbon aerosols disrupts the delicate balance of atmospheric conditions which controls the Asian monsoon circulation patterns and rainfall, and also decreases visibility. Furthermore, black carbon can accelerate the melting of snow and ice in the Himalayas, with consequences for the water cycle and increased risk of flooding. A large fraction of black carbon in the region is emitted by traditional cooking stoves, degrading indoor air quality and affecting the health of women and children. ICIMOD’s work in black carbon and atmospheric pollution has two sides: first, investigation of the science to improve understanding of emission sources, atmospheric transport and transformation processes, and impacts on the atmosphere, glaciers, and snow melt; and second, consideration of key mitigation strategies. Since atmospheric issues are transboundary in nature, ICIMOD as a regional institution has a decided advantage in taking a leadership role to coordinate communication among scientists, planners, and policy makers both regionally and globally. 

The impact of climate change on glacial melting and atmospheric processes and its implications for water availability and quality of life are at the core of this programme. Key outcomes will include an increased understanding of the cryosphere and atmosphere, the changes they are undergoing, and the impacts of these changes in the mountains and downstream, as well as improved regional capacity to monitor the cryosphere and atmosphere.

Goal: Increased understanding of change in the cryosphere and atmosphere in the Hindu Kush Himalayas contributing to improved water resource and risk management and reduced black carbon.

Outcome: Regional member country institutions have enhanced capacity to generate and access relevant data and knowledge about the cryosphere and atmosphere, contributing to effective measures and policies for mitigating local atmospheric emissions and to water resource, air quality, and risk management.