INTERVIEW

Interview: An Indian scientist’s research on glacial melt in the Arctic could hold lessons for India

Ankit Pramanik studies how meltwater from glaciers reaches the sea.

As part of an innovative project, the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences sent two young PhD scholars to study at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso. They have now been conducting their research there for two and half years. Both of them are glaciologists, although the research focus of one is the Arctic and the other is the Antarctic.

Thethirdpole.net’s first interview is with Ankit Pramanik, whose research focus is on how glaciers melt in the Arctic region, and how that meltwater reaches the sea.

How did you get interested in this programme?
I did my bachelors and masters in Physics. I was interested in doing my PhD in an area which is related to physics. Glaciers, climate and cryosphere research are areas where the backbone is physics and geophysics. I learned of this collaborative programme between India and Norway when an advertisement came out on the website of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research. I applied, was called for an interview, and was lucky enough to be accepted for the programme.

Tell us about the topic of your research.
I am doing PhD on glaciers in Svalbard. To be specific, I am working in Kongsfjord area which is close to Ny-Ålesund in North-West Svalbard. Kongsfjord is surrounded by glaciers of different shape and sizes. I am investigating how glaciers interact with different energy fluxes which are responsible for melt and also on how different parts of a glacier gain mass through precipitation. These all are being used to create an energy balance model to understand how much melt water is produced in particular time interval and how much water is added to the fjord. Also my work looks at the mechanism of how melt water is transported through different channels before disappearing into the fjord.

What is the importance of this research?
Glaciers are a source of fresh water. Meltwater from the glaciers ends up into the fjord which contains salt water (sea water). The mixing of fresh water with the sea water of the fjord influences the ecosystem of the fjord – that is where much of the life systems flourish. This information is also of interest to oceanographers who are doing modelling this area to know how much fresh water is mixed in different time of the year.

In general, glaciers are very vulnerable to changing climate. We need to study them to understand the impact of climate change. Apart from sea level rise, they need to be studied to understand the past climate. In the Himalayas many big rivers originate from glaciers and significant percentage of peoples’ life is dependent on these rivers. We also need to study them to understand their impact on hydropower projects, as well as to predict and deal with glacier lake outburst floods.

Does your particular work relate to the Himalayas?
Yes, this study could be applied to glacier research in the Himalayas as well. My present work is to understand the processes that are happening on surface and subsurface of glaciers. Although the climate in Arctic and climate in Himalayas is very different but the basic physics of glaciers is not very different. So, the knowledge (modelling and field work) that I am gaining by working in arctic glaciers would be very useful for research in Himalayas as well.

Has being in Tromso helped you in your research?
Yes, certainly, being in Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø helped me a lot in my research. NPI [Norwegian Polar Institute] is working on glaciers in both Arctic and Antarctic for long time. They have experienced logistic personnel as well as scientists. We need to go through safety and rescue training for the glacier field work. Undertaking this training with experienced personnel made me learn better safety training. Working with the scientists during field work as well as modelling helped me to enrich my knowledge in both the areas of this research which is very important in this field.

What do you see yourself doing in the future, now that 2.5 years of your 3 years is over?
I love my work. I would like to continue working on glaciers in Arctic. I also would like to work on Himalayan glaciers. I want to continue and explore this area of research with further study. If opportunity arises, I would like to contribute on the Indian research on both Arctic and Himalayas in future through my work.

This article first appeared on The Third Pole.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Modern home design trends that are radically changing living spaces in India

From structure to finishes, modern homes embody lifestyle.

Homes in India are evolving to become works of art as home owners look to express their taste and lifestyle through design. It’s no surprise that global home design platform Houzz saw over a million visitors every month from India, even before their services were locally available. Architects and homeowners are spending enormous time and effort over structural elements as well as interior features, to create beautiful and comfortable living spaces.

Here’s a look at the top trends that are altering and enhancing home spaces in India.

Cantilevers. A cantilever is a rigid structural element like a beam or slab that protrudes horizontally out of the main structure of a building. The cantilevered structure almost seems to float on air. While small balconies of such type have existed for eons, construction technology has now enabled large cantilevers, that can even become large rooms. A cantilever allows for glass facades on multiple sides, bringing in more sunlight and garden views. It works wonderfully to enhance spectacular views especially in hill or seaside homes. The space below the cantilever can be transformed to a semi-covered garden, porch or a sit-out deck. Cantilevers also help conserve ground space, for lawns or backyards, while enabling more built-up area. Cantilevers need to be designed and constructed carefully else the structure could be unstable and lead to floor vibrations.

Butterfly roofs. Roofs don’t need to be flat - in fact roof design can completely alter the size and feel of the space inside. A butterfly roof is a dramatic roof arrangement shaped, as the name suggests, like a butterfly. It is an inverted version of the typical sloping roof - two roof surfaces slope downwards from opposing edges to join around the middle in the shape of a mild V. This creates more height inside the house and allows for high windows which let in more light. On the inside, the sloping ceiling can be covered in wood, aluminium or metal to make it look stylish. The butterfly roof is less common and is sure to add uniqueness to your home. Leading Indian architecture firms, Sameep Padora’s sP+a and Khosla Associates, have used this style to craft some stunning homes and commercial projects. The Butterfly roof was first used by Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who later designed the city of Chandigarh, in his design of the Maison Errazuriz, a vacation house in Chile in 1930.

Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Skylights. Designing a home to allow natural light in is always preferred. However, spaces, surrounding environment and privacy issues don’t always allow for large enough windows. Skylights are essentially windows in the roof, though they can take a variety of forms. A well-positioned skylight can fill a room with natural light and make a huge difference to small rooms as well as large living areas. However, skylights must be intelligently designed to suit the climate and the room. Skylights facing north, if on a sloping roof, will bring in soft light, while a skylight on a flat roof will bring in sharp glare in the afternoons. In the Indian climate, a skylight will definitely reduce the need for artificial lighting but could also increase the need for air-conditioning during the warm months. Apart from this cleaning a skylight requires some effort. Nevertheless, a skylight is a very stylish addition to a home, and one that has huge practical value.

Staircases. Staircases are no longer just functional. In modern houses, staircases are being designed as aesthetic elements in themselves, sometimes even taking the centre-stage. While the form and material depend significantly on practical considerations, there are several trendy options. Floating staircases are hugely popular in modern, minimalist homes and add lightness to a normally heavy structure. Materials like glass, wood, metal and even coloured acrylic are being used in staircases. Additionally, spaces under staircases are being creatively used for storage or home accents.

Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Exposed Brick Walls. Brickwork is traditionally covered with plaster and painted. However, ‘exposed’ bricks, that is un-plastered masonry, is becoming popular in homes, restaurants and cafes. It adds a rustic and earthy feel. Exposed brick surfaces can be used in home interiors, on select walls or throughout, as well as exteriors. Exposed bricks need to be treated to be moisture proof. They are also prone to gathering dust and mould, making regular cleaning a must.

Cement work. Don’t underestimate cement and concrete when it comes to design potential. Exposed concrete interiors, like exposed brick, are becoming very popular. The design philosophy is ‘Less is more’ - the structure is simplistic and pops of colour are added through furniture and soft furnishings.

Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)

When building your home, it is important to use strong and durable materials. A value-added premium product with high compressive strength, Birla Gold cement is used to make tough, impermeable concrete that sets quickly, lasts long and minimises cracking. Its durability will ensure that your dream home always looks new and the steel structure inside remains protected. Birla Gold offers variants that are optimised for different needs. The unique hydraulic binding properties of the Birla Gold Premium cement variant prevent seepage, making it resistant to even corrosive water, especially important for houses in coastal cities. The Birla Gold Royal cement variant provides very high strength and is perfect for the foundation. As the video below says, with the different varieties of cement that Birla Gold offers, you can build the home of your dreams.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Birla Gold Premium Cement and not by the Scroll editorial team.