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High Mountain Glaciers and Hydrology (HIMAL)

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Glacier shrinkage is one of the most striking signals of climate change and has profound impacts for downstream and coastal communities. High altitude glaciers, difficult to access and little understood to date, play a key role in contributing to streamflow in many of the poorer regions of the world.  For these areas, where water is a vital supply for crops and communities, understanding changes in the high-altitude cryosphere is crucial to assessing vulnerability to future climate change.

We use a synthesis of observational methods to span scales of cryospheric and hydrological change, from local, process-oriented field research to catchment- and regional-scale remote sensing. We use observations to drive physically-based radiative, glacier and hydrological models for the recent past, present day, and into the future. Our research seeks to understand key processes in distinct study sites, and we leverage novel observations and understanding to produce robust ablation and streamflow projections for the Alps, Andes, and High-Mountain Asia. Understanding debris-covered glaciers and their role in the water cycle has been a key recent focus.


Research in pictures

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Assembling an Automated Weather Station as part of a study of catchment meteorology in Nepal. Photo: Eduardo Soteras
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Testing meteorological instruments on the rugged debris surface of a Himalayan glacier. Photo: Eduardo Soteras
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Supraglacial ice cliffs act as melt hot spots for debris-covered glaciers, and play a key role in determining glacier mass balance. Photo: Eduardo Soteras
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Ponds on the glacier surface regulate discharge from the glacier, but also rapidly absorb atmospheric energy. Photo: Eduardo Soteras
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A research team navigating the debris surface of Lirung Glacier, Nepal. Photo: Eduardo Soteras
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An avalanche descending from 7000 m in Nepal; such avalanches are a principal supply of ice for many debris-covered glaciers. Photo: Evan Miles

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