In 2014, we went to Nepal with funding from NSF and other sources to study black carbon and dust on the glaciers of Mt. Everest. An icefall hit our team and others and killed sixteen Nepalis on the mountain - and made world-wide news. Our teammate Asman Tamang was killed and left behind a young wife and a 9 month old daughter. We were devastated by grief, but also filled with resolve to make sure his sacrifice was not in vain.
Unfortunately, after this terrible tragedy, Maoist supporters from the recent civil war used the event and the threat of violence to push for bribes. Eventually, after much consternation and some people being beaten in the night, the Maoists closed the mountain in the face of the national government’s protestations. In order to maintain some dignity, the government extended climbing and research permits for five years. Our permits expire in 2019 and so we will return to Mt. Everest with a new research team this year.
The goal of our work in the Himalayas will be to document changes in high mountain ecosystems as they respond to the integrated effects of multiple stressors, including human land use decisions and climate variability and change. We will work to identify and analyze patterns of land use and land cover change through time within the Everest region and to determine how climate change and the remnants of the Nepali civil war are affecting conservation efforts in these protected areas and the livelihood systems at their fringes.
We also want to understand how air pollution and dust deposition increase the rate at which glaciers melt - and thus threaten the downstream users of this water over the long-term. Light absorbing particles (LAPs) such as dust and black carbon on glaciers are of significant importance for understanding hydrological system functions for this region - which provides water for billions of people downstream.
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