The Karakoram Anomaly Project combines science, sustainable development and creative media in the tallest mountain range on earth, the Karakoram of Pakistan. The Karakoram Anomaly Project will investigate one of the least understood natural hazards on the planet, and help to protect the people whose lives are under threat.
The Karakoram Anomaly Project will investigate one of the least understood natural hazards on the planet, glacial lake outburst floods.
Glacial lake outburst floods are caused when an ice or moraine dam containing a glacial lake bursts catastrophically. The resulting torrent of water, ice and rock rushes downstream, much like a tsunami. The Karakoram has suffered more than 30 of these devastating outbursts in the last 20 years, and it is believed that 80,000 people in the region are currently at risk.
The remote Karakoram mountains as seen from the International Space Station
‘During glacial lake outburst floods, there is severe loss of lives and physical assets.’ UNDP Pakistan
Glacial lake outburst floods are not a new phenomenon. However, with current environmental change, their probability has risen in most mountain ranges. Glacial lakes are particularly dangerous in the Karakoram as they occur at low elevations and close to settlements. In some cases, potential outbursts allow only 10 to 40 minutes to trigger an alarm for the threatened population to evacuate to safety.
It is a key time to understand glacial lake outburst floods in the Karakoram, because of a phenomenon termed the Karakoram anomaly. The Karakoram anomaly is one of the biggest mysteries of glacial science. It describes the observation of growing glaciers in the Karakoram, in contrast to shrinking glaciers in the rest of the world.
“The Karakoram Anomaly describes the expansion of glaciers in central Karakoram in contrast to declining glaciers around the world.” Dr Kenneth Hewitt, Wilfrid Laurier University
There’s a link between the Karakoram anomaly and glacial lake outburst floods: rapidly advancing glaciers dam river valleys, causing the accumulation of glacial melt-water, increasing the risk of glacial lake outburst floods.
Formation of lakes and glacier lake outburst floods. Example from Medvezhi glacier, Pamir.
The Karakoram Anomaly Project is designed to investigate exactly how the Karakoram anomaly is changing the probability of glacial lake outburst floods in the Shimshal, and Hunza valleys of the Karakoram.
We’ll be trekking and climbing for 60 days across some of the biggest glaciers on the planet, carrying much needed scientific equipment to quantify the risk of catastrophic flooding. We’ll then communicate the results of our work with the local people, to help develop sustainable solutions.
Our work will improve hazard mitigation and adaptation strategies in the region, and increase the local population’s resilience to glacial hazards and climate change, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Kashmiri children playing with a shoe in Domkhar – a Himalayan Valley prone to glacial lake outburst floods. Copyrights: Chris Rubey.
The ultimate goal of the Karakoram Anomaly Project is to help inform and develop strategies to protect local communities from glacial lake outburst floods. After all, the purpose of understanding glacial lake outburst floods in the Karakoram is to protect the people most at risk.
The Karakoram Anomaly Project will carry out interactive workshops with the local communities to raise awareness and advance understanding in respect of the following aspects:
· The causes and effects of regional climate change;
· The risk and metrics of glacial lake outburst floods;
· And potential mitigation and adaptation strategies.
We’re not alone here. We’ve teamed up with the Karakoram Area Development Organisation and Pakistan Meteorological Department to develop viable solutions to protect communities in the Karakoram. We’re also following in the footsteps of the United Nations Development Programme, which has expressed the need for the better understanding of glacial lake outburst floods and the development of solutions in the area.
In addition, we’re backed by some of the most prestigious organisations in exploration and development…
They’ve got our back: The University of Edinburgh, The Captain Scott Society, The Royal Geographical Society, The Mount Everest Foundation, The American Alpin Club, Gilchrist Educational Trust, Laser Technology, The Lord Mayor’s Trust
The Karakoram Anomaly Project is about developing effective solutions to the glacial lake outburst flood problem. An absolutely essential part of this is raising awareness about the phenomenon.
We will document all expedition stages, the scientific findings and activities carried out in the field through the aid of photography and film. The result will be professional photojournalism, time-lapse and repeat photography series and a video documentary that can be used to communicate with people, both in Pakistan and across the world. The Karakoram Anomaly Project will display photographs and scientific results through several exhibitions and presentations including at the Royal Geographical Society in London.
We’ll use a professional drone to film our expedition
Meet The Team
Hi! I’m Sergiu and I am an explorer, environmental geoscientist, mountaineer and photographer. I design multifaceted projects, combining science, mountaineering, creative media, and community development initiatives. I have eight years experience as leader for several expeditions throughout the world’s mountain ranges. My notable projects include National Geographic expedition in the Andes, which assessed landscape changes; Edinburgh University project in Ladakh, which investigated glacial lake outburst floods; Explorer Club mountaineering expedition in the Thien Shan Mountains; and hydroponic farming project in Kenya. I am on a mission to advance society’s mitigation and adaptation strategies to environmental change.
Hi, I’m Oliver Forster. I am an environmental geoscientist, sustainability consultant and mountaineering enthusiast. Scientific study has taken me across the world, from the glaciers and volcanoes of Iceland to Jamaica’s coral reefs, to the jagged peaks of the Himalayas. In the Himalayas, I studied the role of glacial lake outburst floods in the 2010 ‘Cloudburst’ event – the extreme convective storm that devastated the people and region of Ladakh. In addition to hard science, I have hands on experience of environmental and sustainability issues in business. I am passionate about exploring and conserving the natural world for the benefit of future generations.
I am a professional photographer and adventurer, inspired by the beauty of extreme environments and the wild places of our planet. My passion lies in exploring and photographing the remote regions of the world and sharing these adventures with others. To express my vision I create large format, fine art photographs, multi-media installations and photographic essays. I also aim to contribute to the understanding of our environment by collaborating with scientists by using photographic techniques to support scientific research.I have received awards in several international competitions including Travel and Landscape Photographer of The Year. My interest in nature photography has taken me to remote lands such as the Arctic Circle, Mesoamerican barrier reef, and Himalayas where I climbed the 5th highest mountain in the world, Makalu (8463m).
I am a technical-creative problem solver, and a lover of the wild and remote places of this planet. I work as a photographer, cinematographer and a product designer. I have directed and shot international advertising campaigns, remote alpine and rafting expeditions, short and feature length films, and all manner of work in between. As an alpinist, I started making many journeys to the Southern Alps of New Zealand, followed by the European Alps and the Scottish Highlands. I have partnered with various bodies and companies including Australian Geographic, Sea to Summit and all of Australia and New Zealand’s prominent alpine clubs for these expeditions. I have a real passion for teaching, and have worked casually as an outdoor education instructor.
What we need and what you get
Delivering the project requires a massive logistical, physical and financial effort.
We need your help to make the project happen.
We need £12,000 to purchase research equipment, organise the community workshops, sustain the team and local porters and craft a video documentary and photographic essays to share our story with the world.
We have designed unique perks to reward your kind support. Check them out below!
Where are the funds going?
The raised funds will be used towards the fulfilment of The Karakoram Anomaly Project’s goals, including:
– Supporting the logistics of this complex expedition, including payment of a team of 30 collaborators and porters in Pakistan
– Organising and running two community educational workshops
– Editing multimedia material and crafting a 45 min video documentary and several high quality photographic essays, including time-lapse and repeat photography series.
The project involves exploring remote regions of Central Karakoram and travelling to high altitudes. There are physical risks associated with this project. However, our team has a wealth of experience in the activities The Karakoram Anomaly project will involve.
We have completed a full risk assessment and crisis management plan, which has been reviewed by the University of Edinburgh Expeditions Committee. The risk assessment includes an evaluation of physical, biological, chemical, and man made hazards and also takes into consideration personal and third party safety. We’ve also completed an environmental impact assessment, and endeavour to keep our environmental impact to a minimum.
All team members will have travel and medical insurance for the full length of The Karakoram Anomaly Project covering activities associated with trekking and mountaineering. In case of an emergency we will use our satellite phone to call the Pakistani Army for helicopter rescue. Our insurance covers such emergency procedures. All members have first aid training.
In a nutshell our risk assessment will follow the acronym:
C – Clarify the hazards and risks
R – Reassess and revise it where necessary
I – Involve all participants in the process
S – State it simply in writing
I – If it’s too risky – don’t do it!
S – Share knowledge and experience
For more information visit the Karakoram Anomaly project official website.
Other ways you can help
If you’re not able to donate we understand. However, we also hope that you share a passion for international development, people and preserving our environment so please SHARE, SEND, PROMOTE and SPREAD THE WORD about what we’re trying to accomplish. The planet needs us – you can help it by helping the Karakoram Anomaly Project. Please help our campaign by sharing this on social media. Thank you very much for your support and we look forward to sharing with you our results and story from the Karakoram Mountains!