Ponkar glacier field trip, Nov 5 – 16th 2019

In November 2019, Adina Racoviteanu, IGCP project leader, joined by Neil Glasser (Aberystwyth University) and Stephan Harrison (Univ. Exeter) set out with a group of seven Masters students and young researchers from several institutions in Nepal and Sikkim to survey Ponkar glacier in the Manaslu region of Nepal.

The glacier had been previously surveyed by ICIMOD and Kathmandu University since 2016. It took 2 days by bus and jeep and 3 days walk to reach Bhimthang at 3,700 m at the side of Ponkar glacier.

Ponkar survey

previous survey conducted by ICIMOD Nepal

Ponkar glacier

Mid part of Ponkar glacier seen from the moraine at sunrise

Remote sensing – GIS module

After a 2-day bus and jeep ride and one-day walk, on the morning of day 2 of the trek, Adina Racoviteanu led a remote sensing and GIS session using Sentinel, Landsat  to obtain preliminary map of the debris covered Ponkar glacier. Neil Glasser worked with students using Planet imagery to map moraines which could be surveyed in the field. Other students worked on a manually digitised map of Ponkar based on visual interpretation.

Remote sensing module at Gowa village, 2350 m

On day 3 we arrived at Bhimthang at 3,700m where we spent the next 3 days surveying the ablation area of Ponkar glacier. During 3 days at the site, we conducted geomorphology surveys, drone surveys, surface temperature measurements, ablation stake measurements and spectral measurements of the glacier surface.

Water temperature measurements

Students learned how to use TinyTag temperature probes to measure water temperatures at the stream near the lodges. Three probes where subsequently left on various types of surfaces inside the glacier for 24 hours to record temperature fluctuations.

Measuring water temperature

Sediment logging

We chose an area close to the lodges to practice sediment logging. Students sampled sets of 50 rocks from the river channel and recorded rock orientation and approximate dimensions. The experiment was then repeated inside the glacier on various slopes and the results were plotted on a chart at the end of the trip.

Measuring rocks from the river bed. At 4 pm, it was getting very cold!

Inside the glacier

Spectral measurements

Inside the glacier, we took spectral measurements of various types of surfaces such as fine light debris, green vegetation, dry vegetation, water, with the goal of using these for spectral unmixing of satellite imagery.

Setting up the Stellarnet mini spectrometer. Nice sunny day for it!

Drone survey

A drone team from Airlift and DroNepal conducted a 3-day drone survey of the ablation area of Ponkar glacier. A blog post about the drone survey is published on Nepal Flying Labs/WeRobotics website below :

GLOF assessments

On a side trip to the Annapurna conservation area, we surveyed the Gangapurna Lake above the village of Manang (3400 m) to assess any potential for hazards such as a glacier lake outburst flood using remote sensing imagery as well as field observations.

Gangapurna lake above the village of Manang

We reached Kathmandu safe and sound on Nov 16th after 2 days of rough jeep and bus travel back from Manang.

Thanks to all participants for their enthusiasm and good spirits!

Ponkar mountain troop

from left to right: Stephan Harrison (Univ Exeter), Rohit Sthapit (Airlift Nepal), Rajeev Rajak (Sikkim University, India), Praveen Lamsal (Drone Nepal), Rakesh Kayastha (Kathmandu University), Neil Glasser (Aberystwyth University), Amrita Singh (Sikkim University, India), Maria Maharjan (Kathmandu University, Nepal), Sunwi Maskey (Kathmandu University, Nepal), Smriti Basnett (IGCP Asian co-leader, IISc India), Shankar (our guide, Himalayan Research Expeditions), Smriti Katwal (Kathamndu University, Nepal)

IGCP ladies team

The IGCP 672 girls team! From left to right: Amrita Singh, Sunwi Maskey, Smriti Katwal, Smriti Basnett (IGCP Asian co-leader), Adina Racoviteanu (IGCP leader), Maria Maharjan