A New Lake, Renewable Energy, and Cultural Preservation at the Top of the World

Not long ago Imja Lake was Imja Glacier. What that means for the people of the area, and the world as a whole is the centerpiece of Alton Byers and company’s latest expedition high in the Himalayas to a remote region of Nepal, just a few miles from Mount Everest.

A long-time NG explorer himself, Alton is joined by a diverse team of researchers including NG Emerging Explorer T.H. Culhane and NG Fellow Chris Rainier. Culhane is focusing on bringing homegrown renewable energy to the people of the region, while Rainier is helping to get people access and training on hi-tech social tools to help them share their stories and be part of the global conversation about our world and how we live in it.

The core of the geological research though is Imja Lake itself. As a glacier it deposited tons of rocky rubble into giant moraines surrounding itself. While the glacier itself has now melted and become the lake, there is a chance that the moraines that hold the lake back might in fact still be made partly of large icy cores. If so, and if those cores melt, the moraines could weaken, allowing the lake to escape, resulting in a potentially catastrophic flood for the communities below.

Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) the team is searching for these icy cores, and working to discover more about the entire system of lake, mountain, and valley.

While all this is going on, the team is also busily blogging every day. Follow their updates at Adaptation Partnership and learn how people and the land itself are adapting to our changing climate in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.


Learn More About the 2011 Imja Lake Expedition

2011 Expedition Blog

Audio Answers From the Team to Your Questions

Human Journey


Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.