October 5, 2010

Climate Change Monitoring System Expanded To Himalayas

NASA has launched a new system which will help experts keep an eye on the impact of climate change in the Himalayan Mountains, an important source of water for more than a million people, according to an AFP report on Tuesday.

The new initiative is part of NASA's ongoing SERVIR project, a regional monitoring system named for the Spanish word to serve. It is also a Spanish-language acronym for Regional Visualization and Monitoring System for Mesoamerica, according to a 2005 press release announcing its launch.

According to the American space organization's official website, "The SERVIR initiative integrates satellite observations, ground-based data and forecast models to monitor and forecast environmental changes and to improve response to natural disasters. SERVIR enables scientists, educators, project managers and policy implementers to better respond to a range of issues including disaster management, agricultural development, biodiversity conservation and climate change."

The system, which has been endorsed by the governments of Central American and Africa, will now also operate from Nepal's capital of Kathmandu, and according to the AFP, it will help monitor Himalayan glaciers that experts note have begun melting at a rapid rate. There are concerns that it could result in flooding, and ultimately, drought once the water source vanishes entirely.

SERVIR, which according to NASA places "a strong emphasis"¦ on partnerships to fortify the availability of searchable and viewable earth observations, measurements, animations, and analysis," will help officials with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) "address threats to biodiversity as well as risks from flooding, forest fires and storms," according to AFP.

"The whole of the Himalayan region is something of a black hole for scientists and we hope to use this system to bridge the data gap," Basanta Shrestha, a senior ICIMOD executive, told the French news agency on Tuesday. "We can use this to monitor the dynamics of the cryosphere in the light of climate change, which is very important in terms of both disaster management and future water availability."

According to NASA, the primary SERVIR coordination office is housed at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and in addition to Kathmandu, other regional locations of the climate change monitoring service include the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) in Panama and the Kenya's Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD).


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