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12 Oct 2015 | HKPL

Pakistani students learn about permafrost and glacier monitoring

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A two day workshop on permafrost and glaciers was held 15-16 September at Karakoram International University (KIU) in Gilgit, Pakistan. The Permafrost Special Project and Cryosphere Initiative of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and KIU organised the two day workshop. Up to 40  participants from the university and other institutions attended, including students and researchers with varied backgrounds in geology, environmental science, and biology.

Participants were introduced to Essential Climate Variables (ECS), defined by the Global Climate Observing System, including permafrost, glaciers and snow, and the international cryosphere monitoring strategy, which contributes to a coordinated climate monitoring.

Day one included talks on permafrost, its relevance, methods to investigate permafrost and exercises to interpret ground surface temperatures. Permafrost is ground material that remains frozen for two or more consecutive years. The near surface layer above it thaws during the warm season and is termed the “active layer”. Permafrost thaw influences a broad range of systems including hydrology, ecosystems, vegetation, sediment loads in rivers, debris flows and rock fall. As a consequence, it can strongly affect regional livelihoods and economies. The existence and characteristics of permafrost depend on climatic setting, topography, surface cover and subsurface material.

On day two, participants learned about glacier mass balance as a climate indicator, its relationship to the climate, and monitoring techniques. Field equipment was demonstrated and field measurements were analysed to increase the understanding.

ICIMOD’s Senior Glaciologist and Permafrost Coordinator, Dorothea Stumm, who conducted the workshop, said the workshop was successful in introducing basic knowledge on permafrost and glaciers to the participants.

“We had a good gender balance among the participants, and both women and men took greater interest in learning more about glaciers and the impact of permafrost on the environment”, Stumm said.

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