Joel Fiddes bio photo

Joel Fiddes

Research and monitoring in mountain regions

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  • ETH Global SEED fund


Permafrost is an emerging field of research in the Himalaya, led by ICIMOD. However there is no local-scale permafrost modelling in Nepal. Some surface temperature data exists, but no strategic or systematic measurement. The main aims of this project were therefore:

  • Establish the initial basis for a long-term permafrost monitoring site in Nepal.
  • Together with ICIMOD and based on PERMOS protocols developed in CH, agree on strict protocol for installation of ground surface temperature loggers for consistency across sites (Pakistan, India, Nepal).
  • Strengthen local scientific capacity and build long-term collaborations through a joint Swiss–Nepalese measurement campaign and science exchange workshop.


The field campaign to establish a long-term permafrost monitoring site in Langtang Valley, Nepal, was conducted from October 8 – 20, 2016. Three experts from Switzerland joined the expedition (Allen, Fiddes, Mueller), with two masters-level students joining from Kathmandu University (Reeju Shrestha, Aman Thapa). In addition, with support provided by the external partner ICIMOD, a student from Tribhuvan University joined (Shraddha Dhakal), and a young scientist from ICIMOD joined in a supporting role (Gunjan Silwal).

These measurements will be used in the future to validate the modelled permafrost distribution for the region. The current estimate of permafrost distribution in this region based on simple modelling approaches and mapping of terrain indicators suggests permafrost is likely to occur down to around 4300 m a.s.l.

Immediately following the field campaign, the 2-day combined workshop “Field techniques and data tools for monitoring high mountain environments” was hosted at Kathmandu University. 23 participants joined, coming from Kathmandu University, Tribhuvan University, ICIMOD, Kabul University, Ministry of Energy and Water, Government of Afghanistan, and United Nations Environment Programme. The workshop contained a mixture of lectures, practical exercises, and open discussion. In regards to permafrost, the participants were tasked with implementing the key steps in a work-flow designed to give a first validated estimate of permafrost distribution, and assessing related hazard potential

Logger deployments at Yala, upper Langtang valley.


The field campaign was a good success, with new instrumentation installed and baseline terrain mapping completed. The four young local scientists were heavily engaged in all activities, which included:

  • Installation of temperature loggers on rock faces and on debris slopes
  • Terrestrial and aerial photogrammetry (from a UAV) to derive surface topography
  • High precision GPS benchmark measurements to establish terrain movement
Reading out loggers Installing rockwall logger Workshop on permafrost related hazards