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ONE Planet DTP - Evaluating time-varying hazard and risk from proglacial lakes in Lunana, Bhutan. (OP20288)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Bhutan is highly vulnerable to Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), as hydroelectric power (HEP) supplies ~100% of its power and accounts ~60% of its GDP. Furthermore, the vast majority of its population, infrastructure and cultural sites are concentrated in the main river valleys, which originate in glacial catchments. As such, understanding the response of Bhutanese glaciers to climate change and how this translates to GLOF hazard and risk is an urgent priority. This particularly pressing in Lunana as its glaciers are rapidly melting, and it is upstream of major present and proposed HEP infrastructure, agriculture, and cultural sites. Thus, there is an urgent need to assess the contemporary hazard and risk posed by Lunana’s glacial lakes. To date, temporal variations in glacier lake hazards (e.g. seasonal variations in glacier melt) and exposure to these hazards (e.g. due to time of day) have not been assessed, but could strongly influence downstream impacts. Furthermore, previous hazard assessments in the region have used only remote sensing data, which misses key parameters (e.g. the lake’s moraine dam geometry) and can lead to very different hazard classifications for the same lake. This project will address these research gaps, by using a combination of remote sensing, fieldwork and numerical modelling. Specifically, we will:

Use remotely sensed data to quantify glacial changes in the Lunana region from 2010 onwards (terminus position, ice velocities and surface thinning).

Collect field data to determine key parameters that cannot be measured remotely (e.g. moraine dam geometry & composition) and install monitoring equipment to determine temporal variability in these parameters.

Integrate the field and remotely sensed data, to complete a detailed hazard assessment and assess temporal variability in hazard levels.

Assess downstream flood risk and vulnerability by modelling inundation pathways and comparing these to mapped infrastructure, census data and temporal patterns of behaviour, to determine temporal variations in GLOF risk.

The project will provide training in the following: GIS and remote sensing; use of low-cost, near-real time monitoring equipment; fieldwork in high-mountain environments; and modelling flood scenarios. The project will build on our collaborations with relevant agencies in the Royal Government of Bhutan and the United Nations Humanitarian Country Team

Funding Notes

Suited to a student with experience of remote sensing, fieldwork and/or numerical modelling from geographical or geosciences background. Knowledge of Himalayan and/or debris covered glaciers is a benefit.

This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here: View Website

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