Narrowing the Knowledge Gap on Glaciers in High Mountain Asia

Narrowing the Knowledge Gap on Glaciers in High Mountain Asia

KATHMANDU, Nepal: Researchers and students from around the globe met in Kathmandu last week to assemble a more complete picture of glaciers and glacier changes throughout high mountain Asia.

A total of 240 scientists from 26 countries came together between March 1 to 6, 2015 for the International Symposium on Glaciology in High-Mountain Asia, organized by the International Glaciological Society (IGS) and hosted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) to share the latest findings on glaciers, glacier change, glacier contribution to river flow, and mountain hazards in the region.

While knowledge gaps across the region are gradually being filled, additional questions are being raised. “We are making progress on understanding the region as a whole, but when we look at glacier change in more detail, we realize the picture is not yet clear”, said Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at ICIMOD and Chair of the Local Organizing Committee.

The integration of different disciplines has led to studies that capture both regional and local changes in glaciers, snow, and water availability. Multiple researchers presented evidence of the retreat of glaciers in the eastern Himalayas, but suggested that river flows will not decline significantly in the coming decades, as melt rates and precipitation are projected to increase. The Karakoram was also highlighted as a region where glaciers are not retreating, and future research will attempt to explain this anomaly.

“Glaciers in high mountain Asia are the highest on earth, and we have built a strong foundation for future research through this symposium”, said Doug MacAyeal, President of the IGS.

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However, questions remain about the role of debris cover and black carbon in glacier melt, and the limited number of high-altitude precipitation observations. Researchers agreed that more field observations, improved models, intercomparisons of models, and regional data sharing are among the most critical directions and needs for future research.

”ICIMOD is proud to host the first IGS symposium in Kathmandu and help facilitate regional knowledge sharing on the state of our glaciers as well as their impacts on people. We, along with our partners, are working to develop the most accurate and complete picture of the glaciers”, said David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD.

The IGS gathers scientists from around the world several times a year to bring together their knowledge of glaciers in different regions. Results from the symposium will be published in a special edition of the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Glaciology, set to be released next year, as well as through the IGS website in August.

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