Quantcast

Long-term cryosphere monitoring in the HKH: 2019, a year in review

Long-term cryosphere monitoring in the HKH
Download pdf

Shining a light on the cryosphere and society in the HKH

Photo contest winner and honourable mentions

Porters from Zanskar in Ladakh, northern India, traverse the frozen Zanskar River (January 2015)
Winner

Photo and caption by: Jigmat Lundup

Story: For six months of the year, the Himalayan region of Zanskar is cut off from the rest of India because of difficult weather conditions and poor road connectivity. During this period of isolation, the only way in and out of the region is by walking across the frozen Zanskar River – an Indus River tributary which freezes from January to early March each year – in a journey locally known as the Chadar trek. The challenging journey to Leh, the main agglomeration of Ladakh (of which Zanskar is a sub-region), takes three to five days. The Chadar trek is frequently undertaken by Zanskarpas, the region’s inhabitants, for their livelihoods, education, health, and religious practices. However, this journey is becoming increasingly treacherous with the growing instability of the ice and the short window of time during which it can be undertaken.

Theme: Ice and life: Impacts of cryosphere change and adaptation
Location: Zanskar River, Ladakh, India

A baby yak is wrapped up in a blanket to protect it from freezing during an unexpected spring snow event in Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province, China (May 2019)
Second

Photo and caption by: Yan Wang

Story: Tibetan nomadic communities regard yaks as a part of their family, integral to their livelihoods and identity. Given the strong bond and dependency between herders and yaks, Tibetan nomads are greatly concerned about the effects of unpredictable weather on their livestock and livelihoods. The mother yak and baby yak in frame, crouched in a pastureland in Sulu township, were fortunate as the spring snow did not last long – this time around. Scientists predict that climate change could lead to more extreme weather events in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, posing a grave threat to animals and livelihoods.

Theme: Ice and life: Impacts of cryosphere change and adaptation; Disasters and related vulnerability; Cultures in the cold: cultural, spiritual, and gender aspects of the cryosphere
Location: Yushu, Qinghai Province, China

Nasihat Sultan collects water from a frozen river in Chipurson Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan (winter 2015)
Third

Photo and caption by: Muhammad Zia

Story: Nasihat Sultan is fortitude personified – she lives alone for most of the year (except during winter when her husband visits) as a pastoralist in Chipurson Valley, a remote mountain valley at 4,000 masl. Facing freezing temperatures around the year, water is a scarce commodity for communities such as the Wakhi who have lived in the Valley for centuries. During winter, it is very difficult for Nasihat to get water for her animals as the springs dry up and she has to break the layer of ice that forms over the river.

Theme: Water in the high mountain communities
Location: Baba Ghundi Chipurson Gojal Hunza, Pakistan

Drolma Yangzom, an inhabitant of Bajin Valley in Qinghai Province, China, scours the pastureland for yartsa gunbu (May 2018)
Honourable mention

Photo and caption by: Yan Wang

Story: As heavy snowfall the night before nourishes the dry, wild alpine pastureland in Bajin Valley in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau, Drolma Yangzom, along with others from her Tibetan community, sets out foraging for the elusive yartsa gunbu – a high-value medicinal species. Communities across the northern alpine grasslands of Bhutan, China’s Tibetan Plateau, India, and Nepal spend months in harsh conditions to harvest yartsa gunbu. But with climate change accelerating the melting of glaciers and degradation of pasturelands, the availability of this fungal gold is becoming strained. The scramble for yartsa gunbu across the Hindu Kush Himalaya is also leading to overharvesting and environmental degradation. These alarming developments increase the vulnerability of high-mountain communities like Drolma’s that depend on yartsa gunbu trade for their livelihoods.

Theme: Ice and life: Impacts of cryosphere change and adaptation; Life at the Third Pole: cryosphere’s importance for livelihoods; Cultures in the cold: cultural, spiritual, and gender aspects of the cryosphere
Location: Bajin Valley, Zadoi County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province, China

A woman channels water sourced from glacial melt to her field in Yangthang Village, Ladakh, India (June 2014)
Honourable mention

Photo and caption by: Jigmat Lundup

Story: The Ladakh region in the upper Indus Valley receives scant annual rainfall – less than 100 millimeters – as it is located in the rain shadow of the Himalaya. Irrigation from the Indus and the Shyok, the main rivers crossing Ladakh, sustains no more than 15 percent of the local agriculture. The great majority of the fields are fed by glacial meltwater and accumulated snow. But over the past two decades, villages like Yangthang have been finding it difficult to sustain their traditional agricultural practices because of climate change-induced decrease in snowfall, which is the most critical source of water for the sowing season.

Theme: Life at the Third Pole: cryosphere’s importance for livelihoods
Location: Yangthang, Ladakh, India

The struggle to subsist in the Himalayan region (August 2014)
Honourable mention

Photo and caption by: Narayan Maharjan

Story: For Prakash Gurung, mules are a boon; these pack animals transport cooking gas to his difficult-to-access lodge in Larke Pass, a popular trekking destination in Lamjung, Nepal. The cooking gas cylinders have to be refilled in the nearest marketplace in Besisahar, about two to three days away from Larke Pass.

Theme: Life at the Third Pole: cryosphere’s importance for livelihoods; Mountains, snow, ice, and biodiversity; Cultures in the cold: cultural, spiritual, and gender aspects of the cryosphere
Location: Beshisahar, Lamjung District in Gandaki Zone, Nepal

Ice and fire – Nasihat Sultan braves the elements to fetch firewood in the high mountains of Chipurson Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan (winter 2015)
Honourable mention

Photo and caption by: Muhammad Zia

Story: Nasihat Sultan has been a pastoralist all her life – an incredibly difficult existence in the high mountains. To brave the bleak environment, she collects and stocks firewood for fire every day, which is a daunting endeavour. Even firewood is not enough; it has to be supplemented by burning yak dung. Juniper used to grow in abundance in Chipurson Valley but there has been a notable decline following increased extraction by local communities. Nasihat also has to contend with changing weather patterns – less snowfall and more flash floods – possibly induced by the rapid melting of glaciers. The increase in tourists has also been detrimental to the flora and fauna in the area, and the instances of snow leopard and wolf attacks on livestock have increased in recent times. Nasihat soldiers on in the face of these challenges.

Theme: Ice and life: Impacts of cryosphere change and adaptation
Location: Baba Ghundi Chipurson Gojal Hunza, Pakistan

Publications

himaldoc
Journal of Earth System Science

The journal is highly inter-disciplinary and publishes scholarly research - new data, ideas, and conceptual advances - in Earth System Science. The focus is on the evolution of the Earth as a system: manuscripts describing changes of anthropogenic origin in a limited region are not considered unless they go beyond describing the changes to include an analysis of earth-system processes. The journal's scope includes the solid earth (geosphere), the atmosphere, the hydrosphere (including cryosphere), and the biosphere; it also addresses related aspects of planetary and space sciences. Contributions pertaining to the Indian sub- continent and the surrounding Indian-Ocean region are particularly welcome. Given the fact that a large number of manuscripts report either observations or model results for a limited domain, manuscripts intended for publication in JESS are expected to fulfill at least one of the following three criteria.