Phase 3 (2007 Deadline)
Capacity Building and Collaborative Research for Assessing Impact of
Climate Change on Glaciers of the Karakoram Himalaya
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
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.
- 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
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
Show all progress summaries | Hide progress summaries
2011 Download final report
2010 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
The project entered its final academic year (2010-2011) with a note of impending success after some difficulties caused by failure of the Government of Pakistan (GOP) to ever provide any substantive funding for their end of the agreement, together with the cancelled training program for four Pakistani scientists in Nepal in summer 2010 when a US Department of State advisory about the Maoist insurgency necessitated withdrawal of university permissions for travel. An alternate solution for travel of five Pakistani scientists to Nebraska for training in spring of 2011 is underway.
In spite of these problems the Karakoram Ice Project was able to cut through the difficulties by a revision in plans and some fortuitous circumstances. Six solid publications were produced, one with the direct collaboration of Mr. Ghazanfar Ali and Mrs. Roohi, and seven presentations were made by the group at various national (USA) and international venues (Nepal). Additional applicable funding became available from ICIMOD in Kathmandu, the National Geographic Society, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their Monsoon Asia Integrated Research Studies (MAIRS) group.
2009 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
Dr. Shroder began recruiting a postdoctoral associate to work on the project. He had also hoped to bring over a Pakistani PhD student, but because it would take him at least four years to complete his degree, it became clear that the duration of this grant and the funding it includes would not make such a long program feasible. Therefore, that student is applying directly to HEC for separate funding. Dr. Shroder also planned a one-month field visit to the Shimshal Valley, Hunza, in the summer of 2009. This visit was to involve six other US colleagues and as many Pakistani counterparts as possible, depending on their own funding situation. However, in the wake of the deteriorating security conditions that spring and ongoing financial and communications problems on the Pakistani side, the trip had to be postponed until the summer of 2010, with the field site possibly being shifted to another location in the Karakoram Himalaya just over the border in China.
By the end of 2009, communications between UNO and GCISC had unfortunately stalled, and another key Pakistani researcher whom Dr. Shroder had involved in the project to fill the gap left by GCISC left her government research position and emigrated with her family to Australia. Efforts were made to try to revive contacts with GCISC so that the project may proceed.
2008 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
This project was launched on the US side in June 2008. Dr. Shroder had been in e-mail contact with Dr. Ali and other Pakistani colleagues on an informal basis since 2007 and had already provided them with some imaging data that they used to begin collecting glacier depth data. The counterparts exchanged information and realized that the existing imaging data contained some discrepancies, depending on the type of software used. This presented an argument for standardization of methodologies, which the project should help to resolve as the researchers strive for greater scientific validity of their glacier-change estimates.
Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation and the Lounsberry Foundation, Dr. Shroder also had the chance to meet with Dr. Ali and other Pakistani colleagues from GCISC, the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, the Water and Power Development Authority, and COMSATS University at a conference held at the Integrated Centre for Mountain Development in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 31 to 3 April, 2008. Drs. Shroder and Ali discussed plans for their joint project and especially for proposed exchange visits, which they had hoped to begin already in the fall of 2008. However, their plans to send up to four Pakistanis to UNO for training could not be realized because of the delay of funding.