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Pax Arctica Himalayas Expedition - 2009

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OBJECTIVE:

In partnership with Green Cross International, Pax Arctica has once again brought a team of Young Ambassadors to witness changes in global climate. This past summer our team headed to the mountains of Nepal to witness changes in lakes and glaciers in the Hinku region, just south of Mt. Everest. The expedition was made in collaboration with IRD—LTHE (L'Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) - Laboratoire d'étude des Transferts en Hydrologie et Environnement (LTHE) ) - Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE-Grenoble) and Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) - Kathmandu University –Nepal.

 

EXPEDITION SUMMARY:

The Nepalese part of our expedition started on August 14 from New York and Paris. All Team participants did arrive safely in Kathmandu on August 15. Although this is typical monsoon season in most parts of Nepal at that time of the year, we did experience a stronger monsoon than normal and had to wait a few days for the plane to take us to the Hinku valley (via Lukla).
http://www.gorkhapatra.org.np/detail.php?article_id=23138&cat_id=7
This wait gave us the chance to meet with our partner Dr. Rijan Bhakta Kayastha of the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) – Kathmandu University. Children and adults alike got a chance to learn a lot about what’s going in the region.

We were also please to meet Dr. Samir Shrestha, a recent graduate from Kathmandu University. Samir proudly and very efficiently filled the position of trekking scientist during our entire expedition.After a most difficult trek through over the mountains overlooking the Hinku valley, we finally arrived on the Mera glacier on August 26th.
There we took advantage of a window of relatively good weather to conduct some field work (photos, video, GPS coordinates, measuring of ablation stakes, snow line, etc.).
We also were fortunate enough to observe and photograph Sabai Tsho lake, a symbol of glacial lakes overflowing in the Himalayas (its outburst was on Spet. 3, 1998). Because of the various delays we had incurred during the trip, we did not have the time to come back by foot and took a local helicopter back to Lukla.

The French team of scientists who did install the stakes on Mera glacier this past couple of years is now back on Mera Glacier (November 2009) for further measurements and scientific work. We are all eager to see what data they will bring back from their multi-week expedition and what information will come out of this work.

A big thanks again to all our sponsors, especially UFG, TAG Heuer, Y&R and SIGG.

Below: more background information on the expedition.
For a complete photo report: gg

 

The objectives of this field trip were:

• Meet our local partner, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM –Kathmandu)
• Contribute field data to the following larger IRD-DHM ongoing project:

- Monitoring of glacier for mass balance, energy balance and hydrology
- Monitoring a glacier on a long-term basis has mainly three goals in the Himalayas: I. to study the evolution of glaciers and the climate change in remote and high-altitude places of the Himalayas, II. to study the water resources available from glaciers and their future changes and III. to assess the glacial hazards linked to present glacier shrinkage.

In the Hinku valley we did observe Sabai Tsho lake (above Tangnag): the lake incurred an outburst on Sept. 3, 1998, which destroyed part of Tangnag, and the valley to Khote and downstream.

What did we set out to do?

•Estimate altitude of snow line in region
–GPS + photos
•To study the glacier mass balance, a network of ablation stakes has been installed in 2007 and 2008 using a drill machine. Stakes are 8-10m long (4 or 5 2-m bamboo pieces linked with a metallic wire).
•Measure emergence of stakes on glaciers:
–year of stakes installation
–measure height of snow on top of ice
–measure emerged portion of stakes
–GPS localization of stakes

What will we doWhat will we dogg

Mera Glacier:

Map of the glacier showing ablation stakes (red) and accumulation stakes (blue)

balise rouge andeslide 16gg

Ablation stakes on Mera glacier

Climate Change – Himalayans Glaciers:

• Himalayan glaciers feed into seven of Asia's greatest rivers, the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Huange He. They supply water to about 40 per cent of the world’s population

• The glaciers of the Himalayas store more ice than anywhere on Earth except for the polar regions and Alaska

• Himalayan glaciers are receding 10-15 m per year on average - the rate is accelerating as global warming increases

• Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps getting warmer at the current rate

• The rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers will first increase the volume of water in rivers causing, widespread flooding

• But in a few decades this situation will change and the water levels in rivers will decline, meaning massive economic and environmental problems for people in western China, Nepal and Northern India

• This will eventually result in water shortages for hundreds of millions of people who rely on glacier-dependent rivers in China, India and Nepal

• As the glaciers recede, lakes on the Tibetan Plateau are rising steadily, and experts foresee floods, landslides and mudflows from mountain lakes overrunning their banks.

Source: WWF, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Science:

The group of environmental advocates and children that Pax Arctica lead:
- Interacted with European and Nepalese scientists
- with the goal of exploring the region and contributing field data
- to help with the assessment of the conditions of glaciers and lake in the Himalayas region

Patrick Wagnon and Yves Arnaud: Glaciologists, energy balance on glaciers
Pierre Chevallier: Hydrologist
IRD- LTHE (L'Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) - Laboratoire d'étude des Transferts en Hydrologie et Environnement) - Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE-Grenoble)

A scientific program conducted in collaboration with the DHM in Kathmandu (Department of Hydrology and Meteorology) lead by

Dr. Om Baratchraya and Dr. Rijan Bhakta Kayastha
Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM)
Kathmandu University - Dhulikhel, Kavre

http://www.ku.edu.np/env/Brief_CV-Rijan.doc

 

Scientific References:

The world glaciers observatory, coordinated by Patrick Wagnon:

http://www-lgge.ujf-grenoble.fr/ServiceObs/index.htm

for a similar study conducted in India:
Wagnon, P ., R. Kumar, Y. Arnaud, A. Linda, P. Sharma, C. Vincent, J. 
Pottakal, E. Berthier, A. Ramanathan, S.I; Hasnain & P. Chevallier, 
Four years of mass balance of Chhota Shigri glacier (Himachal Pradesh, 
India), a new benchmark glacier in western Himalaya, J. Glaciolology., 
2007

• for an article in LA RECHERCHE (juillet 2008):
Wagnon, Chevallier, Arnaud, la goutte d’eau perdue des glaciers himalayens

Sponsors:

UFG   TagHeuer   Y&R   SIGG  

 

 

 

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All photos, videos and content: © Luc Hardy / SAGAX All rights reserved