Third Time’s a Charm?

Gaining data about climate change in sacred Nepalese lakes

Aerial image of a lake in Nepal where Carolina researchers have been working

Gaining data about climate change in sacred Nepalese lakes

An interdisciplinary group of Carolina researchers first journeyed to Mount Everest’s Khumbu region in summer 2018, returned in fall 2019 and — after COVID delayed the original return plans — made the trek again to the Gokyo Lakes in summer 2022.

The team consists of mathematicians Rich McLaughlin and Roberto Camassa, marine scientists Harvey Seim and Emily Eidam, and religious studies scholar Lauren Leve.

The team successfully retrieved all 14 thermistors and pressure sensors that had been placed in fall 2019 in lake 4, one of six lakes, to measure lake temperature and pressure at different depths.

After retrieving the instruments, McLaughlin said the team now has about four years of continuous data from lake 4. The holy lakes lie next to the Ngozumba glacier, the largest glacier in Nepal. The researchers are trying to understand how glacial melting due to climate change is impacting the physical and biological properties of the lakes.

“We’re trying to assess what’s happening to the lake level if certain changes in climate continue,” McLaughlin said. “The data is pretty exciting, but it’s a little bit alarming, too. It’s showing this continued trend of more precipitation, and the lake level is rising as things are melting.

Gifts to the mathematics department from John and Rebecca Kirkland helped provide critical support for the trip.

Read more about the team’s arduous and dangerous journey to the Gokyo Lakes and their findings…Opens in new window

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