As the climate continues to change, it is important, now more than ever, to quantify what is happening to the glaciers of the Himalaya. “Boots on the ground” research approaches in Nepal serve as invaluable ways to gather data in high-resolution and in real-time. Partnerships with the local community, trekking guides, photographers, mountaineers, and other researchers are crucial to obtaining data that inform and inspire.
Black Ice consists of a small team of scientists and Sherpas who work together on Nepal’s glaciers and mountains. Much focus has been on Ngozumpa glacier, which is an 18-kilometer “river of ice” riddled with supraglacial lakes. These effectively eat away at the glacier from above and below. Black Ice studies these lakes and their behavior through time lapse photography and in-situ field research.
Recently, we have expanded our knowledge base to the other ends of glaciers – the accumulation zones, where glaciers grow. As dust and black carbon (soot) deposits on snow and ice up high, this leads to enhanced melting (due to the particles’ darker colors and ability to absorb more solar radiation) and, thus, diminished glacier growth. This spring (2014), we will be studying these impacts first-hand in the Western Cwm of Mt. Everest.
Project supporters and collaborators include GlacierWorks, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research(INSTAAR), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), University Centre in Svalbard and University of St. Andrews.
The November 2012 and May 2013 Black Ice expeditions were made possible due to the generous support from crowd-funding via PetriDish.org, a USAID Climber-Scientist individual grant, and a research grant from the Geological Society of America (GSA).
Expeditions to the Khumbu and Annapurna regions in 2013/14 were made possible due to a Fulbright Fellowship to student PI, Ulyana Horodyskyj. Support for our Mt. Everest/Lhotse Snow Science Expedition (April/May 2014) comes from the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Fellowship, the William F. Marlar Foundation under the Rice Space Institute at Rice University, and donations from individuals on RocketHub crowd-funding.