Historical Archives to monitor long-Term evolution of HImalayan debris-covered glaciers (HATHI)
In 1936 and 1939, the first Swiss expeditions to the Himalaya led by geographers and mountaineers explored the Garhwal range in Northern India, drawing the first maps of its glaciers and taking some of the earliest photographs of its high mountains towering above 7000 meters. More than 80 years later, Himalayan glaciers are undergoing extreme changes caused by anthropogenic increase in global temperatures. In recent decades, scientists have witnessed and measured accelerated glacier thinning and retreat, and accumulation of rock debris on top of the glaciers, due to enhanced melt in several locations in High Mountain Asia. This bears consequences for water resources as these glaciers provide water to several hundreds of millions of people, and the dwindling of glacier ice will increase the vulnerability of the region to droughts. On the other hand, the development of a supra-glacial debris layer could have a melt-reduction effect on the long-term, as rock debris shields the ice from incoming radiation. Such measurements of debris expansion and glacier thinning were possible largely thanks to high-quality satellite products with ever-increasing spatial resolution. Using spy-satellite archives, our modern remote sensing datasets on Himalayan glaciers can take us back as far as the mid-1970s for some regions. This constrains our understanding of the evolution of these glaciers and their representation in modern glacio-hydrological models, especially regarding the expansion of supra-glacial debris, which occurs on time-scales of several decades. This project will attempt to go back further in time to reconstruct more than 80 years of changes across four glaciers in the Garhwal Himalaya of India. To achieve this, we will use the maps produced by the early Swiss explorers and retrace the steps of these expeditions to repeat the photographs they took and quantify the changes that occurred across these debris-covered glaciers using modern photogrammetry techniques.
|Location||Garhwal range, Indian Himalaya.|
|Funded amount||12,326 CHF|
|Project dates||15th May 2021 – 30th November 2021|
|Category||Polar Access Fund|