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Cryosphere Initiative

Monitoring Approach

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To develop and implement cryosphere monitoring activities in a sustained manner, activities under the Initiative are categorized into three main components:

  • Field-based observation and monitoring
  • Remote sensing-based observations and monitoring
  • Modelling of cryosphere and related processes

Activities under these three components ensure an interdisciplinary approach to developing comprehensive assessments of cryosphere water resources, cryosphere related disaster risks, and future water availability scenarios.

Field-based Observations and Monitoring

Satellite imagery collected and analysed over time can be used to assess glacier areas and advance/retreat rates. However, such information only provides partial insights into the health of a glacier. It is possible for a glacier to be advancing, extending further down a slope over time, and also thinning simultaneously such that the overall glacier volume remains unchanged. To fully assess stored water resources and/or the changes in water storage in glaciers over time, both glacier area and volume, generally referred to as glacier mass balance, are required.

The current status of benchmark glaciers and their responses to climatic variations are assessed through

  • Glacier mass balance and glacier dynamics monitoring
  • Glaciological measurement campaigns
  • Meteorological and hydrological monitoring
  • Snow cover and precipitation monitoring
  • Ground surface temperature monitoring for permafrost studies

 

Remote Sensing based Monitoring

ICIMOD maintains a multi-level remote sensing based observation system for snow and glacier monitoring, including:

  • Mapping and monitoring of glaciers and glacial lakes using Landsat and other high resolution satellite images
  • Snow cover monitoring using MODIS
  • Glacier mass change monitoring using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and high resolution stereo satellite images
  • Detailed investigation of glaciers in representative basins/sub-basins

 

Modelling of Cryosphere and Related Processes

Model applications are used to understand cryosphere-related processes, to fill data gaps and to extend observations spatially and temporally, including:

  • Modelling glacier mass balance and dynamics
  • Developing glacio-hydrological and snow melt models
  • Modelling future changes in glacier meltwater contributions to overall discharge

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Cryosphere Initiative

The River Basins and Cryosphere programme aims to enhance socio-ecological resilience to environmental change.

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