University of Colorado at Boulder

Colloquia Event

Friday March 12, 2010. 03:30 pm. Gugg 205

Himalayan glaciers and 'voodoo science': Integrating remote sensing, field methods and indigenous knowledge about climate change

Adina Racoviteanu

Ph.D. Geography 2011, CU-Boulder

Anecdotal evidence from glacier termini observations in the Himalayas point to “alarming” rates of retreat in the past decades, and rapid formation of moraine-dammed lakes. Recent media reports present contradictory information on either “disappearing glaciers” or “healthy, stagnant glaciers”. Such statements are often supported by dispersed, limited information on glacier trends. Concomitantly, local communities in the Western Himalayas report changes in glacier extents, snow cover and weather patterns. In response to water scarcity, indigenous Himalayan cultures have begun a number of adaptive responses such as meltwater harvesting to construct “artificial” glaciers, which store the water during the dry season. This research addresses the need for a more complete picture on glacier changes in the Himalaya, and for helping local communities plan future water resources in “at risk” glacierized areas. Here I compare and contrast spatial patterns of glacier changes in the dry Western Indian Himalaya (Ladakh and Lahul-Spiti) with the wet, monsoon-influenced Eastern Himalaya (the Everest region in the Nepal Himalaya and Sikkim in the Indian Himalaya. Climate changes reported by local communities were recorded in video, oral testimonies and ground photography. I acquired field data for two indigenous practices of water harvesting: artificial glaciers and kul irrigation systems using a differential GPS system. This research is the result of five years of field work conducted in India and Nepal, and integrates both the scientific perspective and the local knowledge about glacier and climate change.

Related Photos

Chandra Valley,in Himachal Pradesh, India, October 2009