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Francesca Pellicciotti

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL

Martin Hoelzle


Université de Fribourg

Lay summary

The PAMIR research programme is jointly led by co-PIs Prof Martin Hoelzle (University of Fribourg) and Dr Francesca Pellicciotti (WSL).

PAMIR From Ice to Microorganisms and Humans:

Towards an Interdisciplinary Understanding of Climate Change on the Third Pole

Climate-induced changes are dramatic in the high mountains of Asia, but we understand them much less than those in the Arctic or Antarctic. This is despite the importance of these mountains for water supply for societal and environmental use. Supplying water to an otherwise arid region, the Pamir is one of the most important mountain water towers globally. However, the status of the cryosphere in the Pamir region is particularly uncertain due to the lack of measurements since the collapse of the Soviet Union and due to the unique diversity of icy landforms it contains, leading to complex streamflow regimes and geohazards.  The SPI Flagship Initiative PAMIR is an interdisciplinary undertaking to characterize the current state of the Pamir cryosphere to an unprecedented degree, as well as its impacts on ecosystems, hazards and water resources. The programme will:

  1. extract an ice core to unlock a climate archive of the past millennium;
  2. assess the distribution and state of permafrost;
  3. establish the link between microbial adaptation and a rapidly changing cryosphere;
  4. disentangle regional cryospheric hazards by understanding glaciological and permafrost drivers;
  5. measure the mass balance and accumulation of glaciers at a regional level; and
  6. unravel the lost history of Pamir cryospheric research.

Together, these ambitious scientific objectives will generate important historic and contemporary understanding of this key headwater region, enabling a better understanding of the future of this water tower.

Principal Investigators:

Dr Francesca Pellicciotti, WSL

Prof Martin Hoelzle, UniFr Research

Cluster Leads:

Climate and Environmental History: Prof Margit Schwikowski, PSI and UniBe

Mountain Permafrost: Prof Martin Hoelzle, UniFr

Microbial Biogeochemistry: Prof Tom Battin, EPFL

Cryospheric Hazards: Dr Simon Allen, UZH and UNIGE G

laciers, Snow and Hydrology: Dr Francesca Pellicciotti, WSL

History of Glacier Science: Prof Christine Bichsel, UniFr

Find all information about PAMIR on the programme homepage


Regional focus High-altitude
Location Pamir Mountains
Funded amount 1,500,000 CHF
Project dates 1st April 2022 – 31st March 2026
Category SPI Flagship Initiatives


Central Asia’s spatiotemporal glacier response ambiguity due to data inconsistencies and regional simplifications


Inconsistent mass balance relationships in Central Asia
Field Notes
Nonlinear thoughts / Kyzylsu, Tajikistan, September 2022 – Céline Ducret
high mountain water cycle, high mountain glaciology