Lirung Glacier ice cliff energy balance modelling

The first paper on energy balance modelling of Lirung is now available online (open access):

  • Abstract
    Ice cliffs have been identified as a reason for higher ablation rates on debris-covered glaciers than are implied by the insulation effects of the debris. This study aims to improve our understanding of cliff backwasting, and the role of radiative fluxes in particular. An energy-balance model is forced with new data gathered in May and October 2013 on Lirung Glacier, Nepalese Himalaya. Observations show substantial variability in melt between cliffs, between locations on any cliff and between seasons. Using a high-resolution digital elevation model we calculate longwave fluxes incident to the cliff from surrounding terrain and include the effect of local shading on shortwave radiation. This is an advance over previous studies, that made simplified assumptions on cliff geometry and radiative fluxes. Measured melt rates varied between 3.25 and 8.6 cm d–1 in May and 0.18 and 1.34 cm d–1 in October. Model results reproduce the strong variability in space and time, suggesting considerable differences in radiative fluxes over one cliff. In October the model fails to reproduce stake readings, probably due to the lack of a refreezing component. Disregarding local topography can lead to overestimation of melt at the point scale by up to ~9%.



Landsat 8 reveals extent of earthquake disaster in Langtang Valley

The magnitude 7.8 Gorkha earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015, caused extensive damage in Kathmandu Valley and severely affected Nepal’s rural areas. The Langtang Valley in the Rasuwa district was particularly hard hit, as became apparent after pictures taken by a rescue helicopter mission on April 26 (link). Numerous tourists and Nepali were, or are still trapped in the valley as road access is completely blocked by avalanches and landslides. The valley’s main village, Langtang , was completely destroyed by the earthquake, including a large, wet, debris- and ice-rich avalanche that has caused an unknown number of casualties.  Other avalanches also struck elsewhere in the valley.

Space agencies around the world are providing extensive resources in a huge international effort. They are tasking their satellites to observe the areas hit by the earthquake, beginning immediately after the disaster in Nepal took place. Imaging initially focused on Kathmandu. Following the first social media reporting of the helicopter pilot’s comments, an emergency NASA-USGS-interagency Earthquake Response Team alerted satellite mission operations teams about the likely serious plight of Langtang and other Himalayan valleys.  Advisories were also delivered to Nepal officials.  The first relief missions arrived in the Langtang Valley about April 28.

United States Geological Survey/NASA Landsat-8 satellite observations were initially obscured by clouds, but on April 30, Landsat 8 acquired the first largely cloud-free image of the Langtang Valley. Scientists Walter Immerzeel and Philip Kraaijenbrink, both affiliated to Utrecht University in the Netherlands (and Immerzeel also with the International Centre of Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu), analyzed the imagery and compared it with pre-earthquake imagery from a year earlier. Their analyses revealed the true extent of the disaster that took place in the Langtang Valley. Langtang village was completely buried by a very large avalanche that originated from the glacier and snowfields on the northwestern slopes above the village. Large landslides or avalanches are also observed near the villages of Chyamki, Gumba, Mundu and Sindum. The avalanches reach to the margins of those villages.  The extent of the damage around these small settlements will require further investigation using higher resolution imagery to be obtained from satellites, and word from relief crews on the ground. The area around Kyanjin Gompa seems to be relatively intact. The river at the Langtang village avalanche appears to be blocked, but there is no evidence yet of a lake forming behind the blockage. This may indicate that the water has found its way through the debris, snow and ice. The valley is vulnerable to secondary events such as mudslides and debris and ice avalanches; this situation could continue into the coming monsoon. will continue to monitor this situation closely using satellite data.

These scientists are part of an international volunteer group of 35 members led by University of Arizona scientists Jeffrey Kargel and Gregory Leonard, who launched the group soon after the earthquake occurred. This effort has been incorporated into the NASA-USGS-interagency Earthquake Response Team. Their goal is to systematically investigate the entire quake-affected area using remote sensing. Their results will support relief operations and identify secondary hazards, such as glacier lake outbursts, rivers blocked by landslides, and other unstable areas.  This is the first volunteer report of the project.

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Download PDF version of map

To have look at the data interactively please download this KMZ file, which can be opened in Google Earth

Supporting base maps for earthquake affected area

There is a great demand of supporting spatial data and accurate maps to guide relief work in the areas most affected by the earthquake. We have generated some base maps that can be used in the field and may aid in assessing where to focus earthquake relief in the rural areas of Nepal.

The maps are best printed on A3 paper format on which the will have a scale of approximately 1:200000. We currently provide base maps for 12 different tiles, which will cover the provinces of Ghandaki, Bagmati, Narayani, Janakpur and Sagarmatha. If required, expansion of this area is possible.

The base maps that are currently available are: SRTM elevation, USGS shakemap, pre-event imagery, population density, amount of buildings, topographic. All maps include topographic information such as villages, buildings, roads, main trails, rivers and elevation contours as well as administrative boundaries down to the scale of the Village Development Committee (VDC).

The map the layers are retained in the pdf documents. By using layer control in your pdf viewer separate layers can be toggled on or off. This way certain labels or vectors can be removed to increase the maps readability.


The separate PDF maps can be downloaded here

A zip archive (~240 MB) that holds all tiles and base maps can be downloaded here


Feel free to ask for other thematic maps if these are required via




2015-05-01 11:25 – Updated to v1.3

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