Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Artificial Glaciers in Response to Climate Change?

10.08.2018

Heidelberg researchers study effects of ice reservoirs on meltwater-dependent economies in high mountain regions of South Asia

Receding glaciers and dwindling snowfalls pose a threat to meltwater-dependent agriculture in large parts of the high mountain regions of South Asia. A research team led by Prof. Dr Marcus Nüsser of Heidelberg University's South Asia Institute conducted a long-term study to determine how creating ice reservoirs, commonly called artificial glaciers, might help counteract seasonal water scarcity.


Artificial glacier at 4,450 metres above sea level, located above the village Igoo in the high-altitude desert of Ladakh in Northern India (2014).

Picture: Marcus Nüsser

The researchers assess the different types of ice reservoirs and their socioeconomic impact in an attempt to identify whether artificial glaciers are an effective adaptation to climate change. Members from the Heidelberg Center for the Environment also contributed to the study.

Over the past thirty years, funding has been provided to build various types of ice reservoirs in the high-altitude desert of Ladakh in Northern India. These artificial glaciers are fed by meltwater runoff between November and March and stored as ice at locations with the suitable topography and microclimate. The glaciers, structured as cascading walls or stupas, supply water for agriculture in the dry early months of spring in this region, which is completely dependent on snow and glacier meltwater.

In their recently published study, Marcus Nüsser's team provide an inventory and typology of the artificial glaciers in Ladakh. Their analysis of satellite images and field measurements point to a storage volume of between 1,010 and 3,220 cubic metres of water.

“In the best case, the fields could be fully irrigated up to three times over the course of several days,” states Prof. Nüsser. “The storage volume is not reliable, however, because it depends on climatic conditions in the region, which vary from one year to the next.”

The researchers were able to extrapolate the values obtained to the entire storage volume in the Ladakh region and demonstrate that the different types of ice reservoirs are not equally efficient. Reservoirs made up of multiple sequential cascading basins are most effective.

“In addition to climatic conditions, the ratio of subsidies to effectiveness is also decisive for the evaluation,” explains Prof. Nüsser. Based on interviews with local smallholders, the artificial glaciers are also considered beneficial because they reduce the risk of crop failure and increase the possibility of growing cash crops. According to the researchers, the artificial glaciers can therefore “be understood as a site-specific adaptation strategy to environmental conditions in the high-altitude desert of Northern India”.

Beyond their local application, the ice reservoirs were also framed in the past as a general response to the negative effects of climate change, especially receding glaciers. Based on the findings by the Heidelberg researchers, however, the usefulness of this strategy remains questionable.

Climatic variability and natural hazards – especially floods, landslides and avalanches – along with incomplete integration into the local socioeconomic setting significantly limit the efficacy of artificial glaciers. “Moreover, the term ‘artificial glacier’ is misleading, because these ice reservoirs can in no way replace natural glaciers,” states Prof. Nüsser.

The research results were published in the journal "Regional Environmental Change".

Contact:
Heidelberg University
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone +49 6221 54-2311
presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Dr Marcus Nüsser
South Asia Institute (SAI)
Phone +49 6221 54-8922
marcus.nuesser@uni-heidelberg.de

Originalpublikation:

M. Nüsser, J. Dame, B. Kraus, R. Baghel, S. Schmidt: Socio-hydrology of "artificial glaciers" in Ladakh, India: assessing adaptive strategies in a changing cryosphere. Regional Environmental Change (published online on 26 June 2018), https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-018-1372-0

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.sai.uni-heidelberg.de/geo/personen/marcus_en.html
https://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/news2018/pm201809_artificial-glaciers-in-re...

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New insight into glaciers regulating global silicon cycling
14.08.2019 | University of Bristol

nachricht Coastal marine sediments contribute to the formation of greenhouse gases
31.07.2019 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A miniature stretchable pump for the next generation of soft robots

Soft robots have a distinct advantage over their rigid forebears: they can adapt to complex environments, handle fragile objects and interact safely with humans. Made from silicone, rubber or other stretchable polymers, they are ideal for use in rehabilitation exoskeletons and robotic clothing. Soft bio-inspired robots could one day be deployed to explore remote or dangerous environments.

Most soft robots are actuated by rigid, noisy pumps that push fluids into the machines' moving parts. Because they are connected to these bulky pumps by tubes,...

Im Focus: Vehicle Emissions: New sensor technology to improve air quality in cities

Researchers at TU Graz are working together with European partners on new possibilities of measuring vehicle emissions.

Today, air pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing European cities. As part of the Horizon 2020 research project CARES (City Air Remote Emission...

Im Focus: Self healing robots that "feel pain"

Over the next three years, researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, University of Cambridge, École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI-Paris) and Empa will be working together with the Dutch Polymer manufacturer SupraPolix on the next generation of robots: (soft) robots that ‘feel pain’ and heal themselves. The partners can count on 3 million Euro in support from the European Commission.

Soon robots will not only be found in factories and laboratories, but will be assisting us in our immediate environment. They will help us in the household, to...

Im Focus: Scientists create the world's thinnest gold

Scientists at the University of Leeds have created a new form of gold which is just two atoms thick - the thinnest unsupported gold ever created.

The researchers measured the thickness of the gold to be 0.47 nanometres - that is one million times thinner than a human finger nail. The material is regarded...

Im Focus: Study on attosecond timescale casts new light on electron dynamics in transition metals

An international team of scientists involving the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has unraveled the light-induced electron-localization dynamics in transition metals at the attosecond timescale. The team investigated for the first time the many-body electron dynamics in transition metals before thermalization sets in. Their work has now appeared in Nature Physics.

The researchers from ETH Zurich (Switzerland), the MPSD (Germany), the Center for Computational Sciences of University of Tsukuba (Japan) and the Center for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The power of thought – the key to success: CYBATHLON BCI Series 2019

16.08.2019 | Event News

4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020 28 - 29 April 2020, Karlsruhe, Germany

14.08.2019 | Event News

What will the digital city of the future look like? City Science Summit on 1st and 2nd October 2019 in Hamburg

12.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Working out why plants get sick

16.08.2019 | Life Sciences

Newfound superconductor material could be the 'silicon of quantum computers'

16.08.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Stanford develops wireless sensors that stick to the skin to track our health

16.08.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>