Climate Witness: Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo, Nepal

Posted on August, 08 2005

The Abbot of Tengboche Monastery, Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo, is the most revered monk in Khumbu, Nepal. He has lived there for over 30 years and witnessed floods from lakes bursting with glacial meltwater.
My name is Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo and I am the Abbot of Tengboche Monastery in Khumbu, Nepal. I have lived here for over 30 years and witnessed floods from lakes bursting with glacial meltwater.
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The temperature of the earth is rising. It is not natural.
People are becoming materialistic and don’t care.

Climbing Everest has become a fashion. All people want to do is reach the top. And you can see for yourself that climbing Everest has become so easy today. I hear they can do it in eight hours!

The glaciers are shrinking rapidly 
This is because there is less snow. The glaciers are shrinking rapidly.
The Sherpas of Khumbu may not know everything, but they are suffering the consequences of the people’s greed. We mountain people should be careful and take precautions.
It is high time that Nepalese started to depend less on foreigners. Why do we need foreigners to come here and tell us that our glaciers are melting?
The solution for the people in the Himalayas is not to move down to the cities. They will have more problems there. Kathmandu already has a water shortage problem. If we don’t save Khumbu today our fresh water will dry up and the problem will be impossible to solve in the future.
We cannot remain indifferent to each other's problems.

Scientific review

Reviewed by: Dr John Sweeney, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Ireland

Glacial lakes are a common feature of the Himalaya in general and the Khumbu Himal region of eastern Nepal in particular. In some of these glacial lakes, water is impounded by moraines. Such lakes where water is stored by moraines are in general hazardous. Outburst floods from such lakes are characterized by extraordinary peak discharges at the onset of the event and entrainment of large quantities of debris. Such lakes appear to be the most common type of glacial lakes now found in Nepal (Yamada and Sharma, 1993).

Glaciers are a key indicator of climate change as they react sensitively to climate (Oerlemans, 1994). The mean annual air temperatures rose rather dramatically in the 20th century (IPCC, 2001). This has most likely caused increasing glacier retreat in many parts of the world. A recent review of glaciers around the world shows that the average loss of length is about 10 meters (m) per year, and this pace is accelerating in many regions ( Lemke et al, 2007).

The case study on the development and climate change in Nepal from Shardul et al., 2003 reveals a significant warming trend in recent decades and are even more evident at higher altitudes. Similarly, Shrestha et al. (1999) also reported, a drastic warming over the last two decades in Nepal.

Climate change scenarios for Nepal across multiple general circulation models meanwhile show the average increase in the mean temperature by1.2°C and 3°C for 2050 and 2100 respectively (Shardul et al., 2003). Similarly, New et al., 2009 shows that temperature extremes will increase by up to 55% (2060s) and 70% (2090s) ( This warming trend is likely to have significant impact on Nepal Himalayas- most significantly in terms of glacier retreat and significant increases in the size and volume of glacial lakes, making them more prone to Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding (GLOF). Though the data on the glacier mass balance provides the quantitative information on the increasing or decreasing of glacier, it is rare in the Himalayas of Nepal. However, over the past 30 years, the vast majority of all Himalayan glaciers have been retreating and thinning, with accelerated losses in the last decade (Bajracharya and Mool 2009). A number of recent research (e.g., Fujita et al., 2001; Bajracharya and Mool. 2009) have reasoned climate change as a driver to this decrease in mass balance of Himalayan glacier.


  • J. Oerlemans (1994) Quantifying global warming from the retreat of glaciers, Science 264, 243–245.
  • Bajracharya, S. R. and P. K. Mool 2009. Glaciers, glacial lakes and glacial lake outburst floods in the Mount Everest region. Nepal. Annals of Glaciology, 50 (53) London, UK. 81 – 86.
  • Shardul A., Vivian R., Maarten V. A., Peter L., Joel S. and John R. (2003) development and climate change in nepal: focus on water resources and hydropower.
  • (
  • Mark New, Sarah Opitz-Stapleton, Jagadishwor Karmacharya, Gil Lizcano and Carol McSweeney (2009) Climate Projections for Nepal Global and Regional Model Results, 2009 A regional climate change conference Kathmandu to Copenhagen, 31august-1 September, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Wessels, R.L., Kargel, J.S., and Kieffer, H.H. (2001) Global Land Ice Measurements from Space: Documenting the Demise of Earth’s Glaciers using ASTER. American Geophysical Union, May.
  • Shrestha, A. B., Wake, C. P., Mayewski, P. A., and Dibb, J. E. (1999). Maximum temperature trends in the Himalaya and its vicinity: An analysis based on temperature records from Nepal for the period 1971-94. Journal of Climate 12, 2775-2787.
  • IPCC, 2001 In: IPCC, Editor, Climate Change 2001 — The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2001).
  • P. Lemke et al., ”Observations: Changes in Snow, Ice and Frozen Ground,” in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 337–83.
  • Haritashya,; Bishop, Shroder, Andrew, Bush, Bulley (2009). "Space-based assessment of glacier fluctuations in the Wakhan Pamir, Afghanistan" (PDF). pp. 5–18. doi:10.1007/s10584-009-9555-9.

All articles are subject to scientific review by a member of the Climate Witness Science Advisory Panel.
Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo, Climate Witness, Nepal.
Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo, Climate Witness, Nepal.
© WWF-Nepal
Imja glacier lake.
© WWF/Sandeep Chamling Rai
Tengboche Monastery, Nepal.
Tengboche Monastery, Nepal. Creative Commons licence
© McKay Savage