Would-Be Coders Are Studying India’s Glaciers to Learn About Climate Change

Dec 21st, 2014 | By | Category: India

would_be_coders_are_studying_indias_glaciers_to_learn_about_climate_change_m8The Himalayas consist of the world’s tallest mountains, constitute its third-largest storehouse of ice, and are the source of rivers that sustain about 800 million folks from China to Pakistan. The range is also among the least observed icy watersheds on earth, which indicates no one knows how a warming climate will change river flows, trigger floods, or otherwise devastate the region’s towns and farms. In aspect, that’s due to the fact just a handful of scientists are studying glaciers in India, exactly where graduate researchers have a tendency to flock toward computer science or engineering.

Alagappan Ramanathan, a professor of environmental science at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, wants to adjust that. In September he sent about a dozen students with degrees in pc science, facts science, environmental science, remote sensing, and geography—half of whom had by no means seen snow—on a two-week hike of Chhota Shigri, a glacier 70 miles west of the Tibetan border in northern India. “For 15 days, you see no other individuals and only rocks and ice,” says Ramanathan, who funded the trip and one particular final year with grants from the Indian and Swiss governments. Far from their laptops, the students clambered more than boulders and braved crevasses on icy snowfields 16,000 feet above sea level, exactly where temperatures can drop to 5F.

The hikers got a crash course in glaciology, understanding to spot the sorts of icy pools that harbor bacteria and to estimate a glacier’s melt rate working with rods stuck into the ice. Most suffered from persistent headaches, colds, and bouts of nausea 1 had to be evacuated. Lydia Sam, a fellow at the military-run Defence Terrain Research Laboratory in New Delhi, twisted an ankle whilst trekking to the base of the glacier. “It was hurting all through, and I didn’t seriously count on to attain the top,” Sam says as she sips tea at the base camp. But she did, and it was worth it: “The glacier was unspeakably attractive.” She starts operating on her Ph.D. this month and plans to return to Chhota Shigri.

Switzerland has laid out $3.88 million more than three years to fund the Indian coaching programs. (The Indian government wouldn’t say how considerably it’s contributing.) Manual sampling and expeditions are needed in the Himalayan snowfields, since “it’s very hard for satellites to see what’s going on,” says American geologist John Shroder, who’s made about 20 expeditions to the mountains because 1968. Only about a dozen of the virtually 9,700 glaciers in the Indian Himalayas are becoming monitored, so it is unclear how changes could affect the river systems, segmented by hundreds of substantial dams in India’s northern states, says Himanshu Thakkar, a coordinator at nonprofit South Asian Network for Dams, Rivers and People today. “We are going to spend a heavy value for not undertaking robust analysis on glaciers,” he says.

Photographer: Zubair Bangroo/JNU/IHCAP by way of BloombergGraduate student Mohammad Jawad gathers climate information on the eastern flank of the glacier

Ramanathan says India needs to approximate China’s commitment to glacier investigation. A lot more than 850 Chinese researchers are monitoring glacier activity at laboratories and field stations, and state-run institutes have trained thousands of glaciologists in the past two decades, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. India does not have a dedicated analysis institution, and Ramanathan says study is additional hampered by the more than 5,000 Indian and Pakistani soldiers stationed on the Siachen, the longest glacier outside the North and South poles.

Vijay Kumar Raina, former deputy director general of the Geological Survey of India, understands why it is hard to recruit glaciologists. “A chap going to a call center gets paid a lot more than a chap going to a glacier,” the retired geologist says. “Why would somebody place up with such cold and complicated conditions when you do not even spend them enough?” Anirudha Mahagaonkar, a single of the students at the Chhota Shigri base camp, is keen to become a glaciologist but says the government demands to offer superior incentives, adding that he faced “immense pressure” from loved ones to take a job with outsourcing giant Wipro (WIT). “Most folks in India just do not comprehend how really serious issues could get if we do not study glaciers,” he says.

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