Welcome to the

Mountain Cryosphere Research Group

Our main activities focus on the investigation of glacier dynamics and climate-glacier interactions.


Of specific interest are glaciers covered by supra-glacial debris and creeping mountain permafrost (rock glaciers) whose occurrence and characteristics are strongly influenced by topography and geomorphological processes.

Further research includes consequences of the cryospheric change to society such as glacial hazards and changes in run-off. Our analyses are based on a holistic approach which includes field work, remote sensing, statistical analysis, and simplified physical-based modelling.

We focus our research on the high mountains of Asia and the Swiss Alps, but include further study regions such as the Western Canadian Cordillera, the Andes and peripheral Greenland.


Our research team

+ Dr. Simon Allen

(Research Associate, SNF-funding)

Tel.: 0041 (0)44 63 55157

+ Juliane Peters

(external PhD candidate)


+ Dr. Atanu Bhattacharya

(Postdoc, SNF funding)

Tel.: 0041 (0)44 63 55902

+ Dr. Philipp Rastner

(ESA Funding)

Tel.: 0041 (0)44 63 55248

+ Dr. Tobias Bolch

(Group leader)

Tel.: 0044 (0)1334 46 4024

+ Dr. Xu Wang

(Guest Scientist, external funding)


+ Dr. Owen King

(Postdoc, ITPCAS funding)

Tel.: 0041 (0)44 63 55157

+ Sonam Wangchuck

(PhD candidate,

Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship)

Tel.: 0041 (0)44 63 55902

+ Nico Mölg

(PhD candidate, SNF-funding)

Tel.: 0041 (0)44 63 55224

+ Prof. Dr. Guoqing Zhang

(Guest Scientist, external funding)





External affiliated members


+ Dr. Ben Robson

University of Bergen, Norway

+ Dr. Daniel Falaschi

Instituto Argentino de Nivología y Glaciología (IANIGLA), Mendoza, Argentina








Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP)

Ongoing Research Projects

Earth Observation to Investigate Characteristics and Changes of the Cryosphere in High Mountain Asia (EOCryoHMA).

Funding: ESA

Duration: 2017 - 2020

Recent and future EVOlution of Glacial LAkes in China (EVOGLAC): Spatio-temporal diversity and hazard potential.

Funding: SNF

Duration: 2017 - 2019

Understanding and quantifying the transient dynamics and evolution of debris-covered glaciers.

Funding: SNF

Duration: 2016 - 2019

"Estimation of global glacier mass changes"

a subproject within the DFG research unit

“Understanding the global freshwater system by combining geodetic and remote sensing information with modelling using a calibration/data assimilation approach (GlobalCDA)”

Funding: SNF

Duration: 2018 - 2021

Finalised Research Projects

Natural Hazard Assessment for the Reconstruction of Critical Transport and Flood Protection Infrastructure.

Funding: World Bank/ ARUP & Partners

Duration: 2016 - 2017

Water Resources in the Aksu-Tarim-River Catchment of Western China and the Effects of Climate Change

Funding: DFG

Duration: 2011 - 2016

Project Bundle: Variabilität und Trends der Wasserhaushalts-komponenten in Benchmark-Einzugsgebieten des Tibet-Plateaus (WET).

Funding: BMBF

Duration: 2011 - 2015


Recent publications


Bolch, T., Shea, J. M., Liu, S.Y., Azam, F. M., Yang, G., Gruber, S., Immerzeel, W. W., et al. (2019):

Status and Change of the Cryosphere in the Extended Hindu Kush Himalaya Region. In: P. Wester et al. (eds.): The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment , Springer Nature, 209-255. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-92288-1_7. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-92288-1_7.
Wangchuk, S., Bolch, T., Zawadzki, J. (2019):

Towards automated mapping and monitoring of potentially dangerous glacial lakes in Bhutan Himalaya using Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar data. International Journal of Remote Sensing . doi:10.1080/01431161.2019.1569789.
Bolch, T., Rohrbach, N., Kutusov, S., Robson, B., Osmonov, A. (2019):



Occurrence, evolution and ice content of ice-debris complexes in the Ak-Shiirak, Central Tien Shan revealed by geophysical and remotely-sensed investigations. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms , 44: 129–143. doi:10.1002/esp.4487.
Falaschi, D., Bolch, T., Lenzano, M.G., Tadono, T., Lo Vecchio, A., Lenzano, L. (2018):

New evidence of glacier surges in the Central Andes of Argentina and Chile. Progress in Physical Geography , 42(6): 792–825 doi:10.1177/0309133318803014.
Mölg, N., Bolch, T., Rastner, P., Strozzi, T., Paul, F. (2018):



A consistent glacier inventory for the Karakoram and Pamir region derived from Landsat data: Distribution of debris cover and mapping challenges. Earth System Science Data 10, 1807–1827.doi:10.5194/essd-10-1807-2018.
Mukherjee , K., Bhattacharya, A., Pieczonka, T., Ghosh, S., Bolch, T. (2018):



Glacier mass budget and climate reanalysis data indicate a climatic shift around 2000 in Lahaul-Spiti, western Himalaya. Climatic Change. 148(1-2): 219-233. doi:10.1007/s10584-018-2185-3 .
Pieczonka, T., Bolch, T., Kröhnert, M., Peters, J., Liu, S.Y. (2018):



Glacier flow lines and glacier ice thickness estimation for debris-covered glaciers in the Central Tien Shan. Journal of Glaciology64(247):835–849. doi:10.1017/jog.2018.75
Wortmann, M., Bolch, T., Menz, C., Tong, J. Krysanova, V. (2018):


Comparison and correction of high-mountain precipitation data based on glacio-hydrological modelling in the Tarim River headwaters (High Asia). Journal of Hydrometeorology 19: 777-801.



Most cited


Pfeffer, W.T., Arendt, A. A., Bliss, A., Bolch, T., Cogley, J. G., Gardner, A. S., Hagen, J.-O., Hock, R., Kaser, G., Kienholz, C., Miles, E. S., Moholdt, G., Mölg, N., Paul, F., Radic, V., Rastner, P., Raup, B. H., Rich, J., Sharp, M. J., the Randolph Consortium (2014):

The Randolph Glacier Inventory: a globally complete inventory of glaciers. Journal of Glaciology 60(211), 537-552. doi: 10.3189/2014JoG13J176.
Bolch, T., Kulkarni, A., Kääb, A., Huggel, C., Paul, F., Cogley, G., Frey, H., Kargel, J.S., Fujita, K., Scheel, M., Bajracharya, S., Stoffel, M. (2012):

The state and fate of Himalayan glaciers. SCIENCE 336(6079), 310–314. doi: 10.1126/science.1215828.
Sorg, A., Bolch, T., Stoffel, M., Solomina, O., Beniston, M. (2012):


Climate change impacts on glaciers and runoff in Central Asia. Nature Climate Change 2: 725-731. doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1592.
Benn, D.I., Bolch, T., Dennis, K., Gulley, J., Luckman, A., Nicholson, K.L., Quincey, D., Thompson, S., Toumi, R., Wiseman, S. (2012):


Response of debris-covered glaciers in the Mt. Everest region to recent climate warming and its implications to outburst flood hazards. Earth Science Reviews 114(1-2):156-174. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2012.03.008.
Bolch, T., Menounos, B., Wheate, R. (2010):



Landsat-based glacier inventory of western Canada, 1985-2005. Remote Sensing of Environment 114 (1): 127-137. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2009.08.015.
Bolch, T., Buchroithner, M. F., Pieczonka, T., Kunert, A. (2008):


Planimetric and volumetric glacier changes in the Khumbu Himalaya 1962 – 2005 using Corona and ASTER data. Journal of Glaciology 54(187), 562-600.

Selection of publications


Bolch, T. (2017):




Asian Glaciers are a reliable water source. Nature 545: 161-162. doi.org/10.1038/545161a.
Bolch, T., Pieczonka, T., Mukherjee, K., Shea, J (2017):


Brief Communications: Glaciers in the Hunza Catchment (Karakoram) are almost in balance since the 1970s. The Cryosphere 11, 531–539. doi: 10.5194/tc-11-531-2017.
Goerlich, F., Bolch, T., Mukherjee, K., Pieczonka, T. (2017):



Glacier мass loss during the 1960s and 1970s in the Ak-Shirak range (Kyrgyzstan) from multiple stereoscopic Corona and Hexagon imagery. Remote Sensing 9: 275 (18 pp.). doi: 10.3390/rs9030275.
Mölg, N., Bolch, T. (2017):



Structure-from-motion using historical aerial images to analyse changes in glacier surface elevation. Remote Sensing 9: 1021 (17 pp.). doi:10.3390/rs9101021.
Zhang, G., Yao, T., Piao, S., Bolch, T., Xie, H., Chen, D., Gao, Y., O'Reilly, C.M., Shum, C.K., Yang, K., Yi, S., Lei, Y., Wang, W., He, Y., Shang, K., Yang, X., Zhang, H. (2017):

Extensive and drastically different alpine lake changes on Asia's high plateaus during the past four decades. Geophysical Research Letters 44(1): 252–260. doi: 10.1002/2016GL072033.
Bhattacharya, A., Bolch, T., Mukherjee, K., Pieczonka, T., Kropáček, J., & Buchroithner, M.F. (2016):


Overall recession and mass budget of Gangotri Glacier, Garhwal Himalayas, from 1965 to 2015 using remote sensing data. Journal of Glaciology, 62(236), 1115–1133. doi: 10.1017/jog.2016.96.
Bolch, T., Gorbunov, A.P. (2014):




Characteristics and origin of the rock glaciers in northern Tien Shan (Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan). Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 25(4): 320-332. doi: 10.1002/ppp.1825.
Bolch, T., Sandberg Sørensen, L., Simonssen, S.B., Mölg, N., Machguth, H., Rastner, P., Paul, F. (2013):

Mass loss of Greenland’s glaciers and ice caps 2003-2008 revealed from ICESat laser altimetry data. Geophysical Research Letters 40: 875–881. doi:10.1002/grl.50270.

Teaching activities

University courses:

Summer/Training Schools:

Gletscher und Permafrost (GEO351)

Workshop on Geodetic Mass Balance Assessment

Quantification and Modelling (GEO413)


Remote Sensing of Glaciers within the Training Course in Land Remote Sensing by ESA

High Mountain Cryosphere: Processes and Risks (GEO415)


Exkursion: Nordjura



Several articles in national and international print and online media reported about our research results (e.g. Neue Züricher Zeitung, Tagesanzeiger, St. Galler Tagblatt, Blick am Abend, all Switzerland, Le Matin, Le Monde, France; Süddeutsche Zeitung, Berliner Tagesspiegel, Germany; Mail Today, USA)

Several contributions to international news magazines (e.g. The Economist, Science News)

Radio and TV interviews (e.g. SF1 Tagesschau, Switzerland, NPR, USA)

Participation in two documentations about our research activities (shown in ARD, Arte, and ZDF, Germany)




In the near future we aim to provide you manuals for data processing


Here we provide you interesting datasets for free what we have created during our projects. In the near future more glacier outlines and glacier surface elevation changes in grid format will be provided.








Download dataset with metadatasheet:

Subdivision of the Himalaya/Karakorum

Download zip file here



Thank you!