Post from a Scientist: Himalayan Glaciers


Wow! When I was a kid and hiking on Sundays with my parents – I always marvelled at the landscape and especially at the mountains…and often I was left behind. :) From then, I wanted to discover the world and wanted to know why things are how they are. And this is what I do today.

I’m Patricia and I am a PhD candidate at the University of Potsdam in Germany. I finished my Masters in Earth Sciences in 2011 at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (Switzerland). My focus area of interest is the influence and interplay of tectonic processes and climate (precipitation, glaciers) on landscape evolution. During my Masters I therefore mainly focused on geology (structural geology, sedimentology, paleoclimatology). My current PhD project, called “Competing influence of glacial and fluvial erosion in the NW Himalaya, India” still covers some of these aspects. It focuses on exhumation of bedrock to the surface in the northwest Himalayas, and if this is influenced by climate or tectonics. This part of the Himalayas is still glaciated and influenced by rain and snow, but also by glaciers. The complexity of the interplay of the climate and tectonic processes makes it to an interesting area of study. Apart from learning new geo-chronological methods, I also “slipped” into the field of glaciology, which so far I have only just touched on. I want to know if glaciers, in the interplay between regional tectonics and climate, are able to impede or accelerate erosion?

In the Himalayas, glaciers are important for humans as they store freshwater for an entire region. But the retreat of glaciers does not only influence water availability. It can also cause devastation due to glacial lake outbursts, which can affect agriculture. Reading the landscape to reconstruct former glacial stages and the consequences of glacial retreat, as well as the prediction of future events, may help people in the region to prevent more damage.

In my research, different aspects are taken into account when you discuss results. On the one hand, long term evolution hardly affects people in the short term, but is very interesting. On the other hand, climate questions are certainly related to glacial and interglacial cycles. Glaciology can help us to understand these patterns better. At this summer school, my aim is to enhance my knowledge and understanding of the glacial system, so that I am able to describe and explain observations I made in my field.

- Patricia, University of Potsdam, Germany

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2 Responses to Post from a Scientist: Himalayan Glaciers

  1. David R. says:

    What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about glaciers here? How will it influence your dissertation research?

    • Patricia says:

      Hi David! I’ve learned that glaciers are pretty sensible and complex systems. And corresponding to my work, as a result of this course, I am now thinking more clearly about the factors that influence the growth of glaciers.

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