Posts Tagged "bhutan"

Glacier Lake Bursts in Bhutan

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Glacier Lake Bursts in Bhutan

Spread the News:ShareOn the morning of Sunday 28 June, an earthquake in India caused a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood in northern Bhutan.  Local residents alerted officials, who activated warning systems and ordered evacuations downstream. Rivers  rose to high levels, but no fatalities occurred. By Monday night, the rivers had begun to fall. The United States Geological Survey reported an earthquake of 5.5 on the modified Richter scale at 7:05 AM local time, at 17km north-northeast of the town of Basugaon, in Assam State, India and 22 km south of the town of Gelephu in  Sarpang District, Bhutan. Light to moderate shaking was reported from Nepal and Bangladesh as well as Bhutan and India. Sonam Choden in Thimphu in western Bhutan reported on Facebook “the earthquake rocked my husband right back on to sleeping.” Sangay Wangchuk, who lives in Jakar in central Bhutan, wrote “Ap Naka wags its tail again.” Ap Naka means “father earthquake,” referring to the common belief that the earth is held by a giant male spirit whose movements cause earthquakes. The immediate damage in Bhutan was negligible, and even in India it was slight. Three persons sustained minor injuries when an old wall collapsed near the railway station in Kokrajhar, Assam, injuring three people. At an ancient temple in Chirang district, Assam, a sculpture of a lion was knocked off its base. A glacial lake, Lemthang Tsho, located about 95 km northwest of the epicenter, burst later that day. This lake, also known as Shinchila Tsho, is located in Laya County in Gasa District in northern Bhutan, close to the border with China.   According to Kuensel, Kinley Dorji, a county official  in Laya, stated that mushroom collectors in the high pastures near glaciers had called him to let him know about the outburst from the lake, which is one of the sources of the Mochu, a major river of Central Bhutan. He, in turn, alerted district officials in Gasa and in Punakha and Wangdue, two large districts downstream on the Mochu. He also spoke with police, hospitals and officials at a large hydroelectric station at Punatsangchu. Officials at the three major gauges along the Mochu monitored the water levels closely. They began sounding the sirens around 6:30 pm, even before the rivers reached the level for alerts, because they were concerned about additional risks from the monsoon rains, which had been heavy during the preceding weeks. The sirens caused panic among many residents, and they were turned off after more than an hour. The Prime Minster ordered evacuations along the Mochu River and at the hydropower station at 9:30pm, and reports suggest that these were largely complete within an hour. Patients at a hospital close to the river were moved to a military hospital at higher ground. The river peaked late that evening, with high waters at Punakha a bit before midnight and at Wangdue later on. Fortunately, the towns were not damaged. The historic fortress or dzong of Punakha had been partially destroyed by a glacier lake outburst flood in 1994, so residents were concerned. The residents returned to their homes the next morning. Power, which had been cut in Punakha, was also restored. Teams traveled through the area on 29 and 30 June to examine the damage. They reported that six wooden bridges had been washed out, isolating some villages and Laya town, and impeding the assessment efforts. Several groups of mushroom collectors were stranded on the far side of the now-empty Lemthang Tsho lake. ++ without the bridges connecting to their villages. Laya stands totally cut off from Gasa or Lingzhi after the Shinchey La lake outburst!...

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Roundup: Climate Science and International Adaptation

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Climate Science and International Adaptation

Spread the News:ShareIntegration of Glacier and Snow “Energy budget-based distributed modeling of snow and glacier melt runoff is essential in a hydrologic model to accurately describe hydrologic processes in cold regions and high-altitude catchments. We developed herein an integrated modeling system with an energy budget-based multilayer scheme for clean glaciers, a single-layer scheme for debris-covered glaciers, and multilayer scheme for seasonal snow over glacier, soil, and forest within a distributed biosphere hydrological modeling framework.” Read more of the article here.   Climate Science on Glaciers “The 2001–2013 sum of positive temperatures (SPT) record, as a proxy of snow/ice ablation, has been obtained for the high-mountain glaciarized Munku-Sardyk massif, East Sayan Mountains, using daily NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data. The SPT (and ice melt) demonstrates a significant decreasing trend, with the highest values in 2001, 2002, and 2007, and the lowest in 2013. We have investigated relationships between potential summer ablation and synoptic-scale conditions over the study area.” Read more of this article here. International Adaptation to Glacier Retreat “The transboundary Himalayan Rivers flowing through Bhutan to India and Bangladesh constitute an enormous asset for economic development in a region which contains the largest number of poor people in the world. However, the rapid retreat of Himalayan glaciers has made South Asia vulnerable to variety of water-related natural hazards and disasters such as floods, landslides, and glacial lake outburst.” Read more of this book chapter here. Spread the...

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Glacier Conference in Bhutan Promotes Collaboration

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Science | 0 comments

Glacier Conference in Bhutan Promotes Collaboration

Spread the News:ShareA recent conference in Bumthang, Bhutan, titled “International Glacier Symposium: How much do we know about the glaciers of the high Himalayas?” presented data on glaciers there and in neighboring countries. It traced the implications of this work for hydropower development and environmental management across the Himalayan region and led to concrete plans for future collaborations. The conference was held on 16-18 April in the Daphne Conference Hall at the site of the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), the premier environmental organization in Bhutan.  It was sponsored by the Bhutan Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund. Over 60 researchers, students, government officials and NGO staff fromsou Bhutan, Nepal, India, the United States, Germany and Switzerland attended the conference. The conference hall was one of three buildings that opened on 16 April at UWICE; the others were the Centre for South Asia Forestry Studies and the Ugyen Wangchuck Museum for Ethnobiology. A member of the royal family, Her Royal Highness Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, conducted the inauguration for the events, which included the participation of a number of officials, lamas and monks, as well as foreign guests. The director of UWICE, Dr. Nawang Norbu, opened the conference with a welcoming address. He summarized the conference,  saying that “it defines the next pressing questions which need to be addressed … with regards to glaciers and science. The symposium is expected to contribute significantly towards the understanding of glaciers,  enhancing a fruitful collaboration with the regional partners.” Dr. Norbu was followed by two distinguished speakers.  Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, the Minister of Agriculture and Forests in Bhutan, spoke of the importance of glaciers for hydropower and flood risks in Bhutan,  and Shri Harbans Singh, the Director General of the Geological Survey of India, discussed glacier monitoring methods in light of the contribution of glaciers to the flow of the major rivers of South Asia. They both pointed to the importance of advancing research for addressing sustainable development needs.  A keynote address, which I presented, raised the issue of valuation of glaciers—the means by which individuals and organizations assess the importance of the positive contributions of water resources,  the negative impacts of glacier-related hazards, and the cultural and religious significance of mountain landscapes. From this basis, the conference moved to a series of talks that addressed the current state of knowledge of Himalayan glaciers. Phuntsho Tshering of the Department of Geology and Mines reported on the first decade of mass balance research in Bhutan, presenting the measurements that document glacier shrinkage. Two researchers reported on measurements of a number of glaciers in India. They indicated a general pattern of retreat, modulated by a number of factors such as elevation, orientation, size, and location on an east-west gradient.  Deo Raj Gurung of ICIMOD in Nepal reported on satellite data that allowed him to trace the shrinkage snow cover in recent decades in the Hindu Kush, just west of the Himalayas. Richard Forster of the University of Utah gave a more methodological talk. He described how remote sensing that uses microwave radiation can identify small ice features on the surface of glaciers and track them as they move, allowing for the first time measurement of the velocity of glacier movement. Extending these glacier measurement studies, which report only on recent years or decades, were two other papers which used proxy measurements to assess climate in past centuries.  Ed Cook of Columbia University used tree ring data from Bhutan and portions of neighboring countries. These offer precise annual records from which summer temperature patterns can be assessed. Cook traced warmer and cooler periods back to...

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GlacierHub’s Top Ten Posts in 2014

Posted by on Dec 31, 2014 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

GlacierHub’s Top Ten Posts in 2014

Spread the News:Share Will An Icelandic Volcano Erupt Under A Glacier In 2015? Craters Have Appeared On Two Glaciers In Iceland Glacier Archaeology Comes Of Age Artists Stage Glacier Worship In Peru For Climate Change The Risk Of An Exploding Glacier is Heating Up In Iceland Bhutan’s Glaciers and Yak Herds Are Shrinking If A Glacier Melts On A Mountain, Does Anyone Hear It? As Glacier Melt, Bodies Resurface Flooded With Memories In Nepal A Walk To A Place Where The “Mountains Are Weeping“ Late December brings an opportunity for those of us at GlacierHub to look back over 2014. We launched the site on 7 July, and have published 140 posts since then. Three of the ten top stories of the year have featured Barðarbunga, the volcano in Iceland that erupted in late August and has continued to issue lava ever since. There were several moments when it appeared that lava might emerge under Vatnajökull, the country’s largest glacier, which would lead to vast clouds of steam and ash, and create a risk of outburst floods as well. Though such an event has not taken place, it remains within the realm of possibility. Barðarbunga was the topic of the story in seventh place for the number of pageviews, the mid-August announcement that an eruption was likely. The second-place story, in September, reported on craters that appeared on glaciers, the result of subsidence as magma flowed out from under them to other places on the surface. And the story with the largest number of pageviews was published the day before Christmas. It discussed the announcement by a Danish bank that a major eruption of Barðarbunga is one of the serious, underrated threats to the world economy in 2015, since the release of ash could threaten crop yields and food supplies in many regions. Also in the top 10 are two stories on science and two on art. The science posts are closely related topically. Both of them examine the study of things that have emerged from retreating glaciers. One discusses human remains—some thousands of years old, others only decades old—that had been preserved in ice and have recently appeared. Another, the third highest-ranked story in 2014, gives an overview of the field of glacier archaeology and the new journal that discusses research in this area. The art posts, by contrast, are related spatially, since they are both set in the Peruvian Andes. One story from August reports on a trip made by a musician and an anthropologist to record the sounds made by ice and water at different points on a glacier. Another story, from October, details the installations and performance pieces produced by a group of two dozen artists and a dozen indigenous herders who camped for ten days near a glacier. The remaining three stories also form a group. They consist of personal narratives by anthropologists of travels from lower areas up towards glaciers. They all discuss the experiences of the individual writer and of the people whom they meet along the way. Each of them links glaciers with memories, telling of how people saw glaciers in earlier times and how glaciers serve as records of change. Pasang Yangjee Sherpa, who grew up in Kathmandu, traveled to the remote high villages where her parents were born. As she spoke with local residents, she came to understand their reticence in speaking of these disasters. Gísli Pálsson trekked up to a glacier in a distant part of his native Iceland with his wife and two friends; though they anticipated nothing more than a day-long outing, their walk brought surprises—meeting foreign...

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A conference expands the debate over hydropower in Bhutan

Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Adaptation, All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

A conference expands the debate over hydropower in Bhutan

Spread the News:ShareHydropower is the mainstay of the Bhutanese economy, but how is the country moving ahead in its development? Is the present method of constructing hydropower projects conducive to economic development? Does it make sense for Bhutan to build 10,000 megawatts of hydropower by 2020, as some have suggested? These were some of the questions that came up during the three-day conference on Energy, economy and environment which was held in the capital city of Thimphu on 29 to 31 October. More fundamental issues were raised as well: Can Bhutan become a leader in hydropower development in south Asia? Is hydropower in Bhutan sustainable, granted given the pressing concerns about climate change and glacial retreat? The conference was organized by QED, a private research and consultancy firm, and sponsored by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, a German based NGO, along with the Bhutan Ecological Society and Bhutan Foundation. The World Bank, the World Wildlife Fund, and other international and national organizations provided support. The goal of the conference was to correct the perception that Bhutan has passively stood by, observing changes while other countries develop hydropower projects within its territory. And indeed the three days of the conference were marked by lively debate and open discussion, and a reconsideration of Bhutan’s passivity. The importance of hydropower was universally acknowledged. The sector earns about US$160M annually through sale of electricity to India, a country that chronically faces acute shortages of power. This amount constitutes about 27 percent of GDP, and is the key contributor of foreign currency. No other economic activity offers the possibility of reaching this scale. The market for hydropower may grow further. Speakers at the conference raised the issue of trading energy in the entire south Asian region and the need for a regional energy grid. Dasho Chhewang Rinzin #DGPC asserts “#Hydropower project contributes 27% of annual govt. #revenue” #futureofenergy pic.twitter.com/vlwCurPlHB — QED Group (@QEDBhutan) October 30, 2014 Moreover, hydropower is by far the least expensive source of renewable energy; this concern is important, because Bhutan has set carbon neutrality as a goal. . A kilowatt-hour of wind power costs about 10 times as much to produce as hydropower, and solar power averages about 15 times as much. Although hydropower takes up a major share of the Bhutanese economy, there is today no private sector participation in it. Though some participants at the conference pressed for private sector participation in the hydropower sector, many claimed that it did not economically make sense for a private individual or firm to develop hydropower projects, because of the high initial costs of projects Instead, the state sector will continue to lead. Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, the managing director of Druk Green Power Corporation, Bhutan’s electricity generation company, said that the country is soon poised to take the task of building hydropower projects upon itself, with limited assistance from outside. However, concerns were also raised about the “Dutch disease”—the shrinkage of other economic sectors in a country which centers its economy on one natural resource. A number of participants expressed their worries for Bhutan if it places all its economic eggs in the hydropower basket, weakening other sectors that could contribute to development as well. In addition, some participants saw challenges to the hydropower sector in the form of glacier retreat and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). Gordon Johnson, Regional Practice Leader for Environment and Energy in Asia and the Pacific at the United Nations Development Programme raised the issue that the volume of water that has its source from the Himalayan range would become lesser with climate change, thus affecting the hydropower sector. However,...

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