Glaciology Curriculum

The Glaciology Curriculum provides access to 19 modules covering various aspects of glaciology, including the impacts of changing climate on glacier behavior and glacier hazards.
Multiple Authors
Dona van Eeden


The impacts of climate change on glaciers are evident across the mountain regions of the world and are contributing to various hazards and vulnerabilities, including increased risk of glacial outburst flood and reduced water resources. Capacity building has become a prerequisite to foster extensive research on glaciers and facilitate adaptation strategies to address these issues., a new state-of-the-art website on glaciology and related areas, offers comprehensive training material on various aspects of glaciers prepared by well-known Indian and Swiss experts.

The Glaciology Curriculum consists of 19 modules covering various aspects of glaciology with focus on providing understanding about glacier dynamics, glacier process and landforms, impacts of changing climate on glacier behaviour and glacier hazards. The curriculum provides a global perspective with emphasis on the Himalayan and the Alps regions. Each module comprises of the following four sections: summary, presentations, exercises and references.

The training material is an outcome of the Indo-Swiss Capacity Building Programme on Himalayan Glaciology jointly organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The Programme was organized under the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as part of technical and knowledge support under the Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (IHCAP), a project of SDC. It consisted of two levels – Level 1 included classroom training and Level 2 included a field visit to a selected glacier in the Indian Himalayan Region. The trainings were conducted by both the Indian and the Swiss faculty with an aim of enhancing the scientific capacity of young Indian researchers to monitor glaciers and assess the impacts of climate change on the cryosphere in downstream regions. A total of 51 researchers from India were trained between 2013 and 2015 as part of the Programme. Following the conclusion of the Programme, the teaching material provided by the faculty members was compiled to enable access and dissemination as curriculum material.

The website provides an opportunity to researchers across the world to access and utilize this curriculum on glaciology. Access to all the modules is available following one time registration on the website.


  1. Global climate modelling: This course provides a quantitative introduction to the Global Climate system and Climate modeling, which attempts to understand and predict climate changes.
  2. Climate downscaling and gridded climate data:The course includes introduction to climate downscaling and its importance. It describes downscaling approaches together with the representation of glaciers in Regional climate models.
  3. Glacier dynamics: The course provides a detailed overview of glacier dynamics, ice flows, calving and glacier instabilities. The course explains in detail the physical basis of ice flow at the base, basal boundary conditions and detailed description modelling of glacier and ice sheet flow.
  4. Mountain climatology and monsoons: The course introduces basic concepts and features of Monsoon, SW and NE monsoons over India; monsoon trough, onset and advance of monsoon, synoptic features associated with onset, break active and weak monsoons and their prediction.
  5. Energy balance over snow and ice:This course provides an overview of basic radiation laws including black body radiation, with special emphasis on the interaction of solar radiations with the atmosphere, snow and ice.
  6. Water balance in glaciated catchment: The course contents include water balance in a glaciered catchment; water storage changes, water balance of a glacier. Runoff and its variability, contribution of glacier and snow melt to stream flow with special emphasis on the Himalayas. The course also highlights the impacts of climate change on water resources with examples from Asia and the Alps.
  7. Discharge measurement methods:The course exposes the students to different methods of discharge measurements in mountain environment.
  8. Remote sensing of glaciers:The course provides a descriptive account of remote sensing of glacier mapping and monitoring: mapping glacier extents and snowline.
  9. Glacier mass balance approaches and methods:The course provides a basic understanding of glacier mass budget, glacier mass balance gradient and glacier mass balance profile.
  10. Glacier volumes: The course describes different glacier volume estimating approaches including: GPR and Volume-Area scaling.
  11. Snow melt modelling: This course describe basic concepts in snow melt modeling: Snow types, vapor pressure, snow density, water equivalent and snow/ice albedo and snow/ice density.
  12. Isotope and tracer approaches: The course introduces tracer approaches in hydrological investigations.
  13. Glacial processes and landforms: This course provides a systematic review of glacial processes and landforms with an emphasis on topics that are central to understanding of how glaciers operate as geomorphic agents.
  14. Natural hazards in mountain areas: The course gives a general idea of natural hazards in mountainous areas, risk, vulnerability, hazard and exposure with examples from the Alps and the Himalayas.
  15. Integrated climate impact assessment in moutains: The course provides an overview of the climate change impacts; GLOFs, landslides, snow avalanches, floods, debris flows, heat and cold wave and droughts.
  16. Glacier hazards (GLOF, ice avalanches): The course introduces basic concepts in glacier hazard and related terminology and special characteristics of glacier hazards.
  17. Disaster risk reduction: The course introduces basic concepts and theoretical framework for disaster risk reduction.
  18. Permafrost: The course begins with introduction to permafrost and related terminology. It then describes the global and local importance of permafrost. A detailed explanation of permafrost detection, mapping, monitoring and modeling its distribution is provided in the course.
  19. Landform and process reconstruction:The course gives an introduction to landform dating and dendrochronology.

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