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Highest Glacier Monitoring Station

June 24, 2011

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The monitoring station established on Passu Glacier in Hunza. – Photo by Muhammad Omair / Dawn.com

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has established the highest Glacier Monitoring Station in the country, at an elevation of 4500 meters above the sea level, to study weather conditions in the glacier environment.

“The station established on Passu Glacier in Hunza Basin would help in measuring snowfall, solar radiation intensity, humidity precipitation, wind speeds, wind directions and the sub-zero tempeatures in that zone,” Chief Metereologist of PMD, Dr. Ghulam Rasul said.

Talking to APP here he said Passu Glacier is a valley type 26 km long glacier, covering an area of 63 square kilometre and its estimated ice volume is about 10.89 cubic kilometre.

PMD started studying the Passu Glacier last year by establishing a Glacier Monitoring Station at an elevation of 3200 meters above sea level, through financial assistance of International Centre of Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), he added.

PMD had installed a station at the lake, formed due to the melting of the Passu Glacier at its lower end, he said. This helped in monitoring the snow and ice melt process in the ‘ablation zone,’ the lower area of the glacier which is melting fast due to global warming.

It was envisaged at the time that a monitoring station must be established in the ‘accumulation zone,’ the upper area of the glacier where snow continues to accumulate and converts into ice to understand the glacial dynamics, Dr. Ghulam Rasul said.

“Now these two monitoring stations together will help in computing the gradient flow of glacier mass, surface velocity and the rate at which glacier accumulates and loses its mass,” he said.

Such monitoring mechanism will be replicated in other glaciated valleys of the Hunza Basin, he said. “This is a step forward for the systematic assessment of the impact of the global warming on glaciers of Pakistan and resultantly assessment of the potential hydrological resources from glaciers of Pakistan.”

PMD took glacier monitoring initiative in 2006, and since then glaciers such as Hinarchie Galcier in Bagrot Valley, Baltoro and Biafo Glacier in Shigar Valley, Batura, Gulmit and Gulkin glaciers of Hunza Valley are thoroughly studied, Dr. Ghulam Rasul said.

In continuation of such strives, Director General of PMD, Arif Mehmood has formed a team of young scientists under the leadership of Dr. Ghulam Rasul to install an Automatic Weather Station (AWS) in the ‘accumulation zone’ of the Passu Glacier. The team’s members include Muhammad Atif Wazir, Furrukh Bashir, Adnan Shafiq Rana, Syed Kamaludin, Habibullah Barohi, Waqar Ali and Shahir Ali.

He said the AWS would also help the weather scientists understand how much water the Passu glacier will generate due to global warming, because the glacier melting may form invisible lakes under the ice covered surfaces.

And when the water flows from one lake to the other it causes ‘glacier lake outbursts floods’, which affect the people living in the downstream areas, Dr. Ghulam Rasul said. The study of melting rate of the ice can help in avoiding such outburst disasters, he added.

PMD is determined to extend its research activities to the other glacier located in the Basin, the chief metereologist said.