Project 672 - Himalayan glaciers: assessing risks to local communities from debris cover and lake changes using new satellite data

IGCP project meeting in 2018

  • 1. Workshop on use of remote sensing and GIS for geoscience applications, held at Royal Thimphu College (Bhutan): 3-4 June 2018

This two-day workshop, co-sponsored by the IGCP 672 project and the USAID-funded CHARIS project at University of Colorado provided training on fundamentals of GIS and remote sensing for a variety of geoscience applications. The topics included introduction to ArcGIS software, fundamentals of remote sensing, searching and ordering data from various platforms, image pre-processing and glacier mapping using Landsat f satellite images of Bhutan and importing MODIS data. The workshop participants were from RTC as well as other Bhutanese institutions, with a total of 23 participants (11 female and 12 male) representing eight different agencies, namely Private Consultancy firm, National Land Commission, Samtse College of Education, National Center for Hydrology and Metereology, Jigme Namgyel Engineering College, Royal Thimphu College, Sherubtse College, including two external participants (IGCP project collaborators) from Delhi Technological University and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indore, India.

  • 2. Start-up meeting at Royal Thimphu College (Bhutan): 8 June 2018

On June 8th, project leader and co-leaders from Bhutan and India and collaborators (Nepal, India and Bhutan) met and held the project meeting start-up at Royal Thimphu College in Bhutan. The role of each members in the project were identified, as well as the capacity building needs at each institution. A research plan was proposed as a team for developing a glacier hazard ranking scheme as standard protocol, and the place for the fall meeting was selected.

  • 3. Workshop on glacier hazard mapping using remote sensing and GIS, to be held in Dhulikel, 1-5 Nov 2018

This workshop on remote sensing and GIS techniques for glacier lake hazard estimates with a focus on Nepal is a joint collaboration between the ‘Himalayan glaciers and risks to local communities’ project 672 funded by the International Geoscience Program (IGCP) at UNESCO (2018 – 2022) and the ‘Debris-cover on glaciers (DISCOVER GLACIERS) project funded by the European Commission Marie-Curie COFUND scheme (2017 – 2020), both conducted at Aberystwyth University in the UK. Both projects aim at facilitating knowledge and expertise exchange among Asian institutions in Nepal, India and Bhutan and beyond. Using various types of satellite imagery combined with terrain analysis, the DISCOVER GLACIERS project aims at characterizing the surface of debris covered glaciers and its changes over time. Using this knowledge, the IGCP 672/UNESCO project aims at assessing the potential glacier-related risks associated with glacier and climate changes, and at estimating risks to local communities. By combining science with community involvement, these projects aim to understand the socio-­economic impacts of glacier hazards. This program is co-organized with the Himalayan Cryosphere, Climate and Disaster Research Center (HiCCDRC) at Kathmandu University.The workshop is facilitated by Dr. Adina Racoviteanu, Ser Cymru II Fellow at Aberystwyth University, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences (DGES) (UK), IGCP project leader. The goal is to develop tutorials to allow students and staff to develop basic skills in the use of GIS for hazard monitoring, and to progress towards more advanced image processing techniques. This 5-day workshop is the first in a series aimed at establishing a standardized protocol for glacier lake mapping and glacier-related hazard estimates across the Eastern Himalaya.

Workshop-Final Booklet

For information and to confirm your participation:

Brief outline of the project

In the high rugged Himalaya, the lower parts of glaciers are often covered by a thick layer of rock, dirt and gravel originating from the steep valley sides, creating so-­called “debris-­covered” tongues. Differential rates of ice melt create spectacular features such as ablation cones, ice cliffs and a myriad of supraglacial lakes. Some lakes disappear quickly; others grow and breach the moraine dam, triggering catastrophic floods with disastrous consequences for communities downstream.

There is high urgency in developing remote sensing tools to monitor these features in a timely manner, since fieldwork is difficult and surveys are generally scarce. We will use different types of satellite imagery combined with terrain analysis to characterize the surface features of these glaciers, to map their changes over time and to assess their potential for triggering hazards.

Our long-­term goal is to disseminate methodologies developed under this project via trainings and workshops to local institutions in high Asia and to embed scientific knowledge into local communities. Field campaigns will allow us to harvest local knowledge about past flood events and observed glacier changes. By combining the science with community involvement, we aim to understand the socio-­economic impacts of glacier hazards in high altitude areas where people live.

The co-leaders are from Bhutan and India with the participation of Sikkim University.

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