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 communities, trekking and mountain guides, and other researchers are crucial to obtaining data that inform and inspire.
Black Ice Himalaya consists of a small team of scientists, climbers 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 lakes 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. Our work was featured in the fall 2014 issue of Rice Magazine.
Project supporters and collaborators include GlacierWorks, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the American Climber Science Program, and Midwest ROV LLC.
Fall (November 2012) and spring (May 2013) Black Ice expeditions were made possible due to the generous support from crowd-funding via PetriDish.org, a USAID Climber-Scientist grant (High Mountains Adaptation Partnership), and a research grant from the Geological Society of America (GSA).
Expeditions to the Khumbu and Annapurna regions of the Nepalese Himalaya 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) came 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.