The Karakorum Anomaly Project
Glaciers in most regions of the world are in retreat, but in the Karakorum they seem to be stagnating or even growing, a phenomenon termed the Karakorum Anomaly. The KA is increasing the region’s exposure to hazards such as glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). The project is a multifaceted research programme to study the state of health of the Karakorum glaciers in the Hispar-Muztagh and Panmah-Muztagh regions, and assess water availability and glacial hazard risk. The work involved techniques including GPS real time kinematic survey, geomorphic mapping, and repeat photography, to investigate how the glaciers are changing in Shimshal valley, and how this might be impacting the GLOF risk. Preliminary observations found no immediate major risk of GLOFs in Shimshal Valley, though Khurdopin glacier is likely to surge in the next five years. Historic flooding of Shimshal Valley has occurred roughly every 25 years, in synch with the surging of the Khurdopin glacier.