Monday, July 20, 2015

Pakistan's Karakoram Glaciers Growing or Shrinking?

A recent headline in Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper declared: "Pakistan's glaciers melting faster than rest of the world". A few days later, I heard an ex-Met Department officer in Pakistan repeat the same alarm on a Geo TV show "Capital Talk" anchored by Hamid Mir. Are these people right?

Recognizing it's too important an issue to let go, I decided to look into the facts and data as reported in science journals. Quickly, I came upon "Karakoram Anomaly". I learned that it's a term used to describe the fact that, unlike other mountainous regions, the Karakoram glaciers which supply most of Pakistan's river water are growing rather than shrinking.


Baltoro Glacier in Karakoram National Park in Pakistan

Pakistan is home to the most heavily glaciated area outside the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctica. The massive glaciers of Baltoro and Biafo stretch for over 60 kilometers each in the Karakoram Mountains, according to Bina Saeed Khan who wrote on this subject in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper in 2013.  The area designated as the Central Karakoram National Park in Pakistan has 711 glaciers, which is double the number of glaciers in the Alps in Europe.


A research report published in the journal Nature Geoscience has recently reported that the ice in the Karakoram mountains is sustained by a unique and localized seasonal pattern that keeps the mountain range relatively cold and dry during the summer months.

Other Himalayan ranges and the Tibetan Plateau — where glaciers have increasingly receded as Earth's climate has warmed — receive most of their precipitation from heavy summer monsoons out of hot South and Southeast Asian nations such as India.

The Himalayas

The main precipitation season in the Karakoram in Pakistan, however, occurs during the winter and is influenced by cold winds coming from Central Asian countries such as Afghanistan to the west, while the main Himalayan range blocks the warmer air from the southeast throughout the year. The researchers determined that snowfall, which is critical to maintaining glacier mass, will remain stable and even increase in magnitude at elevations above 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) in the Karakoram through at least 2100. On the other hand, snowfall over much of the Himalayas and Tibet is projected to decline even as the Indian and Southeast Asian monsoons increase in intensity under climate change, according to Princeton News.

Understanding what will happen to the Karakoram glaciers in the next several centuries is an existential question for Pakistanis.  Pakistan needs to sustain and grow its fresh water resources to support a growing population. WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority) has recently set up a Glacier Monitoring Research Centre in Islamabad, which intends to conduct mass balance studies of five major Upper Indus glaciers, as well as installing new high-altitude weather stations. The six-year project is funded by the World Bank.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Thar Drought 

Water Scarce Pakistan

Pakistan's Rising Population: Blessing or Curse?

Recurring Floods and Droughts in Pakistan

Helicopter Skiing in Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan

Climbing K2-The Ultimate Challenge

Life of a Siachen Soldier

Extreme Kayak Adventures in Pakistan

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers


15 comments:

Syed Qasim Abbas said...

So start saving the extra flow of water............we Pakistanis are procastinating and lazy

Majumdar said...

Prof sb,

The implications are quite clear. Pakiland's water supply is going to increase and not decrease. So there is no need for Pakis to waste time and money in water saving measures or building dams. Just go about and have a splash!

Regards

Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "So there is no need for Pakis to waste time and money in water saving measures or building dams. Just go about and have a splash!"


No resources is enough if it's not managed. Pakistan needs to effectively manage this resource and regulate water storage and flow and use it for irrigation, urban use and electricity generation,

Riaz Haq said...

Climate change and global warming are responsible for the melting of the Arctic ice and researchers worry that if things don’t change soon, there will be irreversible consequences. However, a new study revealed that in the last couple of years the Arctic ice has actually increased more than 50% despite the devastating effects of climate change and the rising temperatures.
According to the scientists who conducted the study, the Arctic ice increased because the last couple of summers have been cooler than usual in the north polar regions. The scientists explain that this discovery suggests how changing the summer temperatures can be and how it can impact the ice platform.

However, even if the Arctic ice seems to have increased in the last 2 years, the experts are still worried that climate change and global warming continue to seriously affect the area, and will be melting massive sheets of ice in the future.

Previous studies have shown that in the last thirty years, the Arctic ice has been affected the most by the warming temperatures. The satellite images show that more than 40% of the ice that covers the region has melted away in the last 35 years.

Rachel Tilling, researcher at the University College London, and one of the lead authors of the paper, explained that her team analyzed different climate factors that could have damaging effects on the Arctic ice, such as snow loading, wind convergence and the duration of the melting season during the Arctic summer. According to their findings, the length of the melting season was the factor that influenced the most. The scientists found that the last summers have been the coolest in five years, which is why the Arctic ice increased.

The experts analyzed data collected by the CryoSat satellite, which belongs to the European Space Agency. The satellite took images of the Arctic ice for more than five years in order to determine its status and how climate and global warming affect it.

According to the satellite data, from 2010 to 2012 14% of the Arctic ice deposits melted away. However, the next year, in 2013, the sea ice increased by 33%, while in 2014 there was an increase of 25%.

The scientists said that before the CryoSat satellite started to analyze the sea ice, the measurements were not so precise. The details of the new study were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Image Source: inhabitat

http://www.capitalwired.com/arctic-ice-increased-in-the-last-two-years-despite-climate-change/29526/

Riaz Haq said...

The Indian Ocean contains a distinctive layer of fresh water from rain and rivers which may influence the South Asian monsoon, scientists have said.
They are urging meteorologists to include the less saline water in their weather forecasting models.
Meteorology officials in South Asia admit they have been slow to consider the role of fresh waters.
They are already struggling to forecast monsoon rains due to a range of factors including climate change.
Monsoons account for 70% of the rainfall in India and neighbouring countries between June and September.
But longer dry periods and heavy rainfall within a short space of time during monsoon season in recent years have caused concern in South Asia.
And this is already being seen this year, with higher rainfall than normal in June - whereas July and August are predicted to have lower than normal rainfall.
Missing link?
Some meteorologists based in the region believe the freshwater element could be a vital missing link.
Major rivers such as the Ganges, Bramhaputra and Irrawaddy flow into the Bay of Bengal.

A team of international scientists are currently researching the issue.
"Freshwater inputs from both rivers and a large amount of rainfall make the Bay of Bengal a rather unique place, and that is not properly being taken into account in the monsoon forecast models," said Professor Eric A. D'Asaro, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, who has been researching the Bay of Bengal with scientists from India and the US.
"And that's one of the reasons they are not able to forecast what are known as monsoon breaks - in other words the variations on monthly time scales through the monsoon season.
"The fresh water makes the surface layer of the ocean water much thinner and lighter and that reacts with the monsoon clouds more strongly whereas saline water would do so more slowly and that would have less effects on the monsoons."
Researchers with the Ocean Mixing and Monsoon project say they have found a "sharp separation between river water and seawater on scales ranging from 100m to 20km".

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33479507

Riaz Haq said...

The Government of Japan will replace the weather surveillance radar in Karachi with a grant of 1.95 billion Yen (approx Rs 1.6 billion).

For this purpose, Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan Hiroshi Inomata signed and exchanged notes with Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Secretary Muhammad Saleem Sethi on Wednesday. A grant agreement on the details of implementation of the project was also signed between JICA chief representative Mitsuyoshi Kawasaki and EAD Joint Secretary Syed Mujtaba Hussain.

Four (Islamabad, Karachi, Dera Ismail Khan and Rahimyar Khan) out of seven meteorological radar systems in Pakistan were established under the grant of Japan. These four radars observe the precipitation of about 80% of the country. Among them, the existing Karachi radar system established in 1991 has played an important role in monitoring meteorological phenomena in the southern area and tropical cyclones which are formed over the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

However, with the passage of time and despite maintenance, the installed radars are losing their relevance to modern technology. In the wake of these imminent challenges, it is pertinent to shift from this analogue system to modern digital Doppler mode radar. The new radar will have a 450km radius of information processing for consumption of the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

This will help the PMD monitor the movement and development of severe weather systems to prepare more accurate and timely weather forecast and to warn coastal areas in Sindh and Balochistan. Forecast for international shipping and aircrafts’ traffic will also be improved. The Doppler mode is essential in achieving more accurate forecasting and longer forecast prediction times.

This project is the first priority of the National Multi Hazard Early Warning System Plan which was a part of the National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) formulated through Japan’s assistance in 2012. In accordance with the NDMP, Japan has been extending assistance such as replacement of the meteorological radar in Islamabad and installation of the Flood Forecasting System in collaboration with UNESCO. The project agreed on Wednesday is expected to have synergies with these ongoing and completed projects assisted by Japan.

At the signing ceremony, Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Inomata expressed the hope that this project contributes to protecting more lives and properties from future natural disasters.

He also said, “Japan will continue to work together with Pakistan to make this country disaster-resilient, making good use of experience and expertise Japan has gained from many disasters in the past.”

JICA chief representative Kawasaki while commenting on the significance of the project said, “Since Japan also has faced persistent natural disasters and overcome it in our long history, Japan should lead and strengthen disaster management in the world based on our knowledge and experience as well as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which is one of the fruit of the 3rd UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.”

The Government of Japan committed in November 2013 that it would provide 1.6 trillion Yen (approximately $16 billion or Rs 1.4 trillion) of public and private finance over a period of three years from 2013 to 2015 to developing countries, which include Pakistan, to counter climate change. The project agreed on Wednesday forms a part of this commitment.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/09-Jul-2015/japan-to-grant-rs-1-6bn-for-replacement-of-karachi-radar

Riaz Haq said...

INDIA’S monsoon is one of the world’s most important weather events. About half of the country's population—that is, 600m people—depend directly on the rain it bears. The monsoon sweeps northward across the subcontinent, bringing moist air from the south and south-west Indian Ocean. As it hits the land, and especially as it rises towards the Himalayas, it dumps its cargo of water, producing about three quarters of India’s total rainfall between June and September. Two-thirds of Indian agriculture is still fed by this rain, rather than by irrigation, which means India’s harvest depends on it. When the monsoon fails, as it has done this year, millions suffer. Crops wilt or fail altogether, farm land dries up, reservoirs, already too-small, run low, and winter crops (which are mostly irrigated) are imperilled. In some places this year, a lack of rain has led to shortages of drinking water.

Like all weather patterns, the monsoon is erratic. Four years in ten count as abnormal. But this year—in which total rainfall is 14% below the 50-year-average between June and September—is exceptional. Droughts of this sort happens about once every 18 years. There is also extreme variation within the variation. Some parts of the country, the western state of Gujarat for example, have seen higher-than-normal rainfall. Others, especially in the north and the eastern coast, have had precipitation that is 40% below average.

Climate change seems to be making the variations more extreme. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international group of scientists who advise governments on global warming, has warned that because of climate change monsoon rainfall extremes are likely to increase. But exactly why this should so be is up for debate. No one yet fully understands the link between the monsoon and El Niño, a warming of the waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Over the past century, most climate scientists have argued that a strong El Niño is associated with a weak monsoon because, as the Pacific warms, the air rises and comes down again over the subcontinent, driven by prevailing wind patterns. This descending warmer air is associated with higher pressure, less moisture and a weaker monsoon. The current El Niño is the strongest since 1997 and 1998, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, and will be at its most powerful at the end of the year.

During the 1980s and 1990s, however, this link seemed to be broken. The year 1997 saw one of the strongest El Niños on record, but a normal monsoon. Balaji Rajagopalan of the University of Colorado, Boulder, argues that the puzzle can be explained by looking at which part of the Pacific warms up during an El Niño. If the eastern waters warm, the air comes down again over Indonesia and South East Asia, which tend to be drier than normal. But this may not affect India. If the central Pacific warms, the high pressure tends to form over India and the monsoon fails. If Professor Rajagopalan is right, this year’s El Niño is getting stronger in the central Pacific than in the east. The Indian Meteorological Department is hoping to incorporate this information into its monsoon forecasting system.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/10/economist-explains-0

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: An incredible journey to the #glaciers of the #Karakoram | via @Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/pakistan/11991679/Pakistan-An-incredible-journey-to-the-glaciers-of-the-Karakoram.html …
----
The (British) group admitted that they had had pre-conceptions about Pakistan, but received "nothing but overwhelming hospitality" throughout their trip. They stressed the importance of seeking out a knowledgeable local guide - "Ali Saltoro of Alpine Adventure Guides was incredible". They added: "The people we met all wanted more visitors to come and see their beautiful country."
They said that the Yushkin Glacier itself was one of the most beautiful places visited: "House-sized blocks of ice, carved into endlessly beautiful shapes and forms by the torrents of crystal clear water, that would suddenly dive into the glacier and disappear, roaring down into its depths."

------

Terrifying roads and inhospitable weather greeted a recent expedition to the mountains of northern Pakistan - but at least the views were spectacular

the (British) team, backed by the Royal Geographical Society, had good reason to be where they were. Home for two months for the group of scientists, geographers and photographer Tim Taylor was base camp on the Yukshin Glacier, below Yukshin Gardan Sar (7,530 m), in the Hispar Muztagh mountains, a sub-range of the mighty Karakorams in the remotest part of the ethereal Hunza Valley in north-eastern Pakistan.

These superlative landscapes were briefly deemed off-limits to British travellers, after a mountaineering group was attacked and 11 killed at the basecamp of Nanga Parbat peak in the same Gilgit-Baltistan region. However, the Foreign Office relaxed its travel advice for the area earlier this year. The terrific geography of the place makes travel difficult all the same. Bad weather meant the group's flight from Islamabad further north was cancelled, forcing them into a 24-hour journey on some of pretty hair-raising roads (see below). The group described the route as "a car width's track cut into the rock hundreds of feet above a roaring torrent of water."


Another obstacle was Attabad Lake - formed when a colossal landslide submerged a village. The only way to get vehicles across it is the work of simple genius: 4x4s are strapped onto wooden planks laid across the back of a tiny boat.

In September, those parts of the Karakoram Highway - the world's highest paved road - destroyed by the Attabad landslide, were reopened, meaning that more conventional forms of transport are making their way back into the region.
The group set out to monitor the deadly phenomenon of glacial lake outburst floods, or "inland tsunamis", caused by the breaching of ice dams that allows water to surge downstream. According to the Karakoram Anomaly Project, the effects of this phenomenon pose a threat to around 80,000 people in the region.

The team collected data that would allow them to predict the risk of a glacial lake outburst flood in the Shimshal Valley. The road to this small village was only finished in 2003, having taken almost 20 years to construct. There are no roads beyond this, meaning that explorations in and around the glaciers were completed on foot.
The work also involved "repeat" photography: recreating images from the Royal Geographical Society dating back to 1887, taken by the pioneering explorers of the late 19th and early 20th century. The aim of this was to compare how the glaciers have changed over the past 100 years.
In addition to scientific research, the team documented the trip and will release a documentary in 2016.

Riaz Haq said...

Big picture: #Pakistan's surging #glaciers (Wired UK). #Karakoram #climatechange http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2016-02/29/pakistans-surging-glaciers …

Every month, we round up some of the most strange, striking and plain stunning snapshots of the world around us. See more amazing images in the gallery below.

This satellite image show the flow of the Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan. Snow is shown as cyan, ice is pale blue, the bare terrain is a muddy brown. The branching formation in the centre of each image is the glacier's ice tongue, brown with rocky debris.

The snapshots come from Nasa's Landsat satellite, which produces "false colour" images by measuring wavelengths of light invisible to the human eye. "For glacier analysts this is extremely useful," says Frank Paul, senior researcher at the University of Zurich, who put together the images. "These composites show clouds in a different colour to snow."

Unlike other glaciers around the world, these are not receding, a phenomenon known as the "Karakoram Anomaly". To observe this, Paul turned Landsat images from 1990 to 2013 into an animated gif, which revealed some glaciers retreating over short periods, others stationary and some surging.


"This confirms the anomaly in climatic terms," says Paul. "As for the surging -- we have no clue why they are doing it."

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan using #NASA satellite images to monitor, manage groundwater resources. http://phy.so/376039608 via @physorg_com

Pakistan's water managers are looking to NASA satellites to help them more effectively monitor and manage that precious resource, thanks to a partnership with engineers and hydrologists at the University of Washington, Seattle.
"Satellites up in space looking at how much water we have underground, in rivers or in the atmosphere are providing routine observations that can help policymakers and on-the-ground managers make informed decisions," said Faisal Hossain, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington. "From offering improved flood forecasting to indicating areas where groundwater resources are threatened, freely available satellite data can be an invaluable resource, particularly in developing countries."

After training at the University of Washington, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources in January 2016 began using satellite data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, mission to create monthly updates on groundwater storage changes in the Indus River basin. This will allow them to see where groundwater supplies are being depleted and where they are being adequately recharged. Like all NASA satellite data, GRACE data are freely available for download from open NASA data centers (GRACE Tellus and the Physical Oceanography Distributed Active Archive Center) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
GRACE's pair of identical satellites, launched in 2002, map tiny variations in Earth's gravity. Since water has mass, it affects these measurements. Therefore, GRACE data can help scientists monitor where the water is and how it changes over time. Using tools developed by the University of Washington and partners at the University of Houston; Ohio State University, Columbus; and NASA's Applied Sciences Program, Pakistan's water managers and researchers can analyze the NASA data to estimate changes in the total amount of available water, as well as changes in groundwater supplies.

"Using these satellites, we can indicate the areas that are most threatened by groundwater depletion. We can tell the farmers and water managers and help decision makers formulate better and more sustainable policies," said Naveed Iqbal, an assistant director and hydrogeologist at the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources. Iqbal spent six months at the University of Washington learning how to analyze and process the GRACE data to enhance decision-making at his agency.
GRACE project scientist Carmen Boening of JPL, which manages the GRACE project for NASA, said, "This is another great example of the unique ability of GRACE to see changes in water resources on a regional scale and provide easily accessible information where data are otherwise limited."
Compared to traditional groundwater monitoring efforts, the satellite information offers less spatial resolution but huge benefits in terms of cost and efficiency. For example, Pakistani water managers spent eight years building a groundwater monitoring network in the Indus River basin alone, and that network provides readings only twice a year.
"It's so fundamentally difficult to do this monitoring in a conventional way—sending people and sticking probes in the ground to measure water. It takes a long time and it's expensive," said Hossain, who runs the University of Washington's Sustainability, Satellites, Water and Environment Research Group. "In some places you can't even send people because the terrain is too remote or there is mortal danger due to insurgency and political strife."

Riaz Haq said...

The Hindukush-Karakoram-Himalayan (HKH) mountain
ranges and highlands of the Tibetan Plateau (TP)
contain large mountain glaciers of the world, and
nourishes large Asian river basins with significant
amounts of snow and glacier melt, thus are susceptible
to global warming and climate change. Therefore,
precise and accurate policy making and sustainable
water resource development are vital to cater for
needs of food and power generation of billions of
people. Precise and accurate policy making and
sustainable water resources development are
dependent on the accuracy of hydrological modelling
and its future forecasts, though contain inevitable
significant uncertainties. Current study discusses
hydrological modelling uncertainties, biases and their
causes in the Upper Indus Basin (UIB), which is
originating from the HKH-TP region (see Figure 1a-c).
The UIB receives winter precipitation from westerlies,
whereas summer precipitation is caused by monsoon
depressions (see Figure 1a). Most of the UIB (70-80% of
the entire basin) remains covered by winter snowfall,
although snow-glacier cover reaches to 9-11% of the basin area during summer months (Hewitt 2005,2013;
Khan et al., 2014a). River flows from the UIB cater for
agricultural and power production needs of millions of
people, thus play vital role in agro-economic growth of
Pakistan. Snow and glacier melt contribute about 50-
80% of annual flows in all sub-basins of the UIB, though
various studies show significant variability and
uncertainty in snow and glacier melt contribution to
annual river flows (see Table 1). For example the
variability of glacier-melt for the UIB at Besham Qila
ranges between ~20% to 68% of the annual flows, and
for the Astore sub-basin is ~18% to 63% of the annual
flows (Table 1). Such variability and uncertainties
restrict precise and accurate policy making and
sustainable water resources development, in the UIB.
Slight variability among various studies (Table 1) can be
due to difference in time periods, use of different
snow-glacier areas and use of different methods.
However significant variability and uncertainties are
caused by three main reasons: 1) use of an
overestimated drainage basin areas, 2) use of
underestimated precipitation, and 3) use of biased
calibration methods. These are discussed as follows.


https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/642496-Khan-Hydrological%20Modelling%20and%20their%20biases.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Paraglider Soars To Record Heights Above #Pakistan mountain peaks. #K2 via @seeker

http://www.seeker.com/paraglider-soars-to-record-heights-above-pakistan-1960152816.html

From his vantage point in the air, Antoine Girard soared nearly level with the summits of Pakistan's jagged snowcapped mountains: K2, Broad Peak, and G4.

The French athlete wasn't flying in a commercial aircraft, though. He was bundled up like a mountaineer in a snowstorm, breathing oxygen from a tank, and cruising along in his paraglider, reports Planetmountain.com.

This was no mere jaunt. Girard's surreal flight in Pakistan lasted for seven hours. He started over the long Baltoro Glacier, then headed over the famous rocky Trango Tower to the Concordia confluence before he caught the right thermals to fly over Broad Peak on July 23, Planetmountain.com reported. Reaching a height of 26,761 feet, Girard made history by becoming the first person to surpass the 8,000-meter (26,246.72 feet) mark for high-altitude cross-country paragliding.

The Adidas-sponsored paraglider, who is also an experienced mountain climber, spent weeks in Pakistan preparing. "This is the flight of the century," American adventure pilot Brad Sander, who assisted Girard in Pakistan, told Cross Country magazine. "It's beyond anything anyone has done so far."

Girard manages makes the feat look downright relaxing, but paragliding comes with crazy risks. Earlier this week, paraglider Damien LeRoy's engine stalled right before a turn in Florida, prompting him to bail 150 feet above the ground to avoid crashing. The fall broke his back, femur, pelvis, three ribs, and punctured his lung, ABC News reported. Fortunately, he survived to tell the tale.


Just watching paragliders from the ground here in Colorado, I get nervous that a sudden gust of wind would send them careering into the mountainside. Girard's footage, on the other hand, is far more relaxing to view -- as long as you don't think about how cold his fingers must have gotten.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan has more #glaciers than almost anywhere on Earth. But they are at risk. #K2 #Himalaya #water http://wpo.st/sver1

With 7,253 known glaciers, including 543 in the Chitral Valley, there is more glacial ice in Pakistan than anywhere on Earth outside the polar regions, according to various studies. Those glaciers feed rivers that account for about 75 percent of the stored-water supply in the country of at least 180 million.

But as in many other parts of the world, researchers say, Pakistan’s glaciers are receding, especially those at lower elevations, including here in the Hindu Kush mountain range in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Among the causes cited by scientists: diminished snowfall, warmer temperatures, heavier summer rainstorms and rampant deforestation.

To many, the 1,000-square-mile Chitral Valley has become a case study of what could await the rest of the world if climate change accelerates, turning life-supporting mountains into new markers of human misery.

“It’s already happening here, and my thinking is, in the coming years it will just go from bad to worse,” said Bashir Ahmed Wani, a Pakistani forestry specialist with the Asian Development Bank.

Over the past six years, the Chitral Valley has also experienced three major floods that many Pakistani scientists attribute to climate change. The floodwaters killed more than 50 people and stranded hundreds of thousands while undercutting a once-vibrant tourist industry still struggling to rebound after Sept. 11, 2001.

Despite such calamities, the valley has come to symbolize the way a poorly educated populace can compound the effects of climate change, creating a cycle of hardship that is difficult to break as the needs of humans compete with the needs of nature. Its glaciers offer a stark example.

As the valley’s population has soared — from 106,000 in 1950 to 600,000 today — most residents get just two to four hours of electricity a day, they say. Without reliable refrigeration, they turn to vendors hawking chunks of the valley’s shrinking snowpack.

Every day, residents say, scores of these entrepreneurs drive five to seven hours to the mountain peaks, where they hack into the glaciers — or scoop up the pre-glacial snow — and load the haul into their jeeps and trucks. Back in the valley, they shovel the snow and ice into shopping bags and sell it for 50 cents a bag.

“There are no fans, no refrigerators working, so I will store this for cooler water and then use it for drinking,” said Ubaid Ureh, 46, as he held two dripping bags. “The doctors say we shouldn’t drink it, but we have no choice.”


Hameed Ahmed Mir, a local biodiversity expert who has worked for the United Nations, said the harvesting of the Chitral Valley’s glaciers saps in one day what otherwise could be several months’ worth of stable water supply.

One cubic yard of ice weighs about a ton — enough to supply four to seven families with drinking water for several days — and one vehicle can carry three to four tons of snow or ice, he said: “Then multiply that by 200 vehicles per day.”

Khalil Ahmed, a former project manager for the U.N.-supported Glacial Lake Outburst Floods Project, said Pakistani law does not make it clear whether the government or the public owns the country’s vast glacial reservoirs.

“We are trying to initiate a dialogue with the local people, but these are poor people,” he said, noting that glaciers in the neighboring territory of Gilgit-Baltistan are also being sold off.



---------------
Other scientists play down the threat, saying there are so many glaciers in Pakistan that it’s like taking water from an ocean. But even they admit that the sight of desperate families waiting to buy snow underscores the challenges facing this valley.

--------------------

Some researchers think that the glaciers in the Karakorum and Himalayan mountains in Gilgit-Baltistan may even expand as weather patterns shift and more precipitation falls over the highest peaks as snow. Many of Pakistan’s glaciers are also covered in silt and debris, which helps insulate them.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan expands monitoring of its 5000 #glaciers to reduce disaster risk. #water #climatechange http://reut.rs/2bLnJQI via @Reuters

Pakistan will invest $8.5 million to expand a network of glacier monitoring stations tracking the pace of glacial melt in the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges, in an effort to strengthen early warning systems and reduce the impact of flooding in the South Asian country.

Almost half of Pakistan's 5,000 glaciers, covering around 15,000 square kilometers, are in rapid retreat, scientists say. The rate of glacial melt, which has risen by about 23 percent in the previous decade, is among the fastest in the world, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

Last month, the government approved 892.5 million rupees for a four-year project to expand the network of monitoring stations as officials seek more accurate data on temperature, humidity, changing rainfall patterns and wind speed, while tracking the rate at which glaciers are melting.

"The initiative is indispensable for enhancing the country's climate resilience, and vital to the meteorological department's ability to timely release warnings about the flood risk," Ghulsam Rasul, director-general of the meteolorological department, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

"Based on data from these weather stations, timely warnings will be issued to provide a lead time of 60 to 90 minutes to communities in flood-prone areas to respond effectively to early flood warnings," he said.

Pakistan is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. In 2010, the country suffered the worst floods in a generation with more than 1,600 killed and over 14 million affected as floodwaters inundated over a third of the country.

Investing in disaster preparedness not only saves lives but also money with each $1 dollar spent saving $7 in tackling the aftermath of disasters such as floods, development experts have said.

SMS ALERTS

Pakistan's meterological department also has submitted a six-year plan to modernize the country's aging weather forecasting system - at a cost of 16.6 billion rupees ($159 million) - to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for approval.

The plan proposes installing 22 meteorological radar stations across the country and 400 advanced automatic weather stations, while overhauling community-based weather observatory stations in 98 districts.

"Our radar network – comprising seven flood warning radars - is now very poor and obsolete," Ghulam Rasul said.

Besides expanding early warning systems, disaster management officials are focusing on getting early warnings to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, said Ahmad Kamal, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

The agency has sought cooperation from the state-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and bodies regulating print and electronic media to disseminate weather forecasts and early warnings by SMS and print media when disaster threatens.

Kamal said as many as 10 million SMS alerts were sent to disaster-prone communities in 2015, adding that SMS alerts had proven to be the most effective way of communicating with remote communities, particularly in mountainous regions.

"Despite the same intensity of summer monsoon rains in 2015 as observed in the preceding years, loss of life and cattle in mountain areas was 80 to 90 percent less," Kamal said.

In a country of 200 million people, more than 140 million are mobile phone users, he noted.

"Loss of the life from disasters can be brought zero if one early warning SMS alert about any possible disaster is relayed to these big number of mobile phone users in the country," he suggeste

Riaz Haq said...

Remote northern #Pakistan village Gojal transformed by #education , #CellPhone, #Internet, new highway http://on.natgeo.com/2dPriY5 via @NatGeo

PASSU, Pakistan—Sajid Alvi is excited. He just got a grant to study in Sweden.

“My Ph.D. is about friction in turbo jet engines,” Alvi says. “I will work on developing new aerospace materials—real geeky stuff!”

Alvi’s relatives have come to bid him farewell as he prepares to leave his mountain village and study in a new country, some 3,000 miles away.

“We will see you again,” one of them says as they hang out in the potato field in front of Alvi’s house. “You know you won’t get far with a long beard like that. You look like Taliban!”

Alvi, dressed in low-hanging shorts and a Yankees cap, is far from a fundamentalist: He’s Wakhi, part of an ethnic group with Persian origins. And like everyone else here, he is Ismaili—a follower of a moderate branch of Islam whose imam is the Aga Khan, currently residing in France. There are 15 million Ismailis around the world, and 20,000 live here in the Gojal region of northern Pakistan.

I’ve been visiting Gojal for 17 years, and I’ve watched as lives like Alvi’s have become more common here. Surrounded by the mighty Karakoram Range, the Ismailis here have long been relatively isolated, seeing tourists but little else of global events. But now, an improved highway and the arrival of mobile phones have let the outside world in, bringing new lifestyles and opportunities: Children grow up and head off to university, fashions change, and technology reshapes tradition. Gojal has adjusted to all of this, surprising me every time I return by showing me just how adaptable traditions can be.

With these photos, I hope to add nuance to our understanding of Pakistan, a country many Westerners associate with terrorism or violence. People have suffered from this reputation, and many feel helpless in trying to change it. The Pakistan I’ve seen is different from that popular perception. I returned there this summer with my family and focused my attention on a young and forward-thinking community in Gojal, a place I know well.

I first came here in the summer of 1999. I was 25 and my girlfriend and I bought one-way tickets to Pakistan. We were looking for inspiring treks (the Karakoram Range has the highest concentration of peaks taller than 8,000 meters). Back then, we were among the roughly 100,000 foreign tourists to visit northern Pakistan each year.

We stayed for months, opening new passes, learning the language, and exploring the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Pamir. I kept returning, but over the years, I saw the number of fellow hikers plunge. The tourism department now records only a few thousand foreign visitors each year.

“Following the terrible September 11th attacks, anyone involved in tourism had to sell their jeeps or hotels; no tourists dared to come here anymore,” says Karim Jan, a local tour guide.

With each return visit, I noticed other changes. While outsiders were rare, the improved Karakoram Highway, now able to host vehicles other than Jeeps and 4x4s, brought in local tourists from south Pakistan, and southern cities became more accessible to the Wakhi.


Young men and women began leaving to study in these cities, and they came back for summer holiday dressed in new, hip fashions. Shops multiplied along the road, selling new spices, sugary snacks, and sodas. Biryani rice, a favorite dish from Punjab, now often replaces the traditional turnip soup or buckwheat pancakes during celebrations.

But despite what I’ve seen change on the surface, the spirit of Gojal is very much the same.