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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program                                                            
Phase 3 (2007 Deadline)

Capacity Building and Collaborative Research for Assessing Impact of
Climate Change on Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya
(Karakoram-Ice Project)
    

John F. Shroder, Jr. and Michael Bishop, University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO)
Ghazanfar Ali, Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), Islamabad
Pakistani Funding (MoST):  $90,000
US Funding (USAID):    $230,000
Project Dates on US Side: April 1, 2008 - October 31, 2011

Project Overview

While mountain glaciers worldwide are reported to be generally receding, impacts of climate change on global and regional ice-mass fluctuations are poorly understood because of complex feedback mechanisms and the shortage of good field or laboratory assessments. The Himalaya has been identified as a critical region for such study. Its glaciers are thought to be particularly sensitive to climate forcing due to high altitudes. The Karakoram Himalaya contain some of the longest and largest valley glaciers of the world outside high latitudes, and through their glacier melt, provide more than 60 percent of the Indus River flow. The study of these glaciers is thus crucial for ensuring water security in Pakistan. The current project was designed to bring about close collaboration between scientists from GCISC and UNO in order to (1) increase knowledge about the changes in volume of the overall cryospheric ice mass in the Western Himalaya because of ongoing climate change, and its attendant effects on the overall availability of downstream meltwater; (2) elucidate the potential problems associated with climate-change-caused breakout floods and landslide hazards associated with glacial valley-wall debuttressing or diminution of permafrost valley-wall binding strengths; and (3)  build educational and research capacities and capabilities in the Pakistani government through education in both the United States and Pakistan. 

Major Results

  • Examined more than 300 glaciers in the Pakistani Himalaya, of which 65 percent are either advancing or showing no change in terminus position, which is in distinct contrast to the deglaciation characteristic of much of the rest of the world, and is potentially good news for Pakistan irrigators downstream unless associated floods return again
  • Identified and mapped 53 new surging glaciers not previously reported
  • Discovered a unique positive ice mass anomaly that is spatially coincident with advancing and surging glaciers caused by increasing precipitation and unusual new confluence dynamics between the westerlies and the southwest Asian monsoon
  • Made 23 public presentations on these glaciers at national scientific meetings
  • Produced nine journal articles, ten book chapters, and two other publications as of summer 2011

Quarterly Update

Due to lack of the promised funding on the Pakistani side and security-related concerns, several planned field expeditions on this project had to be cancelled. A planned visit by three young staff members from GCISC for training at the University of Nebraska at Omaha during the spring of 2011 also had to be cancelled due to visa delays. Dr. Shroder and his US co-PI Dr. Michael Bishop worked to compile the data they have gathered and provided it to GCISC and other Pakistani counterparts before the grant ended in October 2011. Dr. Shroder reports that they have made progress in developing new methodologies for extracting information from satellite imagery in order to assess the alpine glaciers in Pakistan. In particular, these developments are related to debris-covered glacier mapping, supraglacial lake assessment and mapping, ice-flow velocity determination, and terrain analysis. Although the new approaches they have developed are still being evaluated, they plan to publish their results, the Pakistani counterparts should also benefit by having access to the new information regarding glacier and terrain conditions.  

Progress Report Summaries

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