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School of Geography

C. Scott Watson C. Scott Watson

Contact details

Room Garstang 10.08
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



Ice cliff, supraglacial lake and water storage dynamics on the Khumbu Glacier, Nepal

Project overview

Mass loss from Himalayan glaciers and changing precipitation regimes will affect the water resources for over a billion people over the coming decades, including use in agricultural, energy production, and domestic settings. Heavily debris-covered glacier tongues are common across the Himalaya and are stagnating as the glaciers thin year-on-year in response to warming temperatures. A thick debris layer insulates the ice beneath, however, hot spots of melt occur around exposed ice cliffs and supraglacial ponds, which are only recently been recognised with fine-resolution satellite imagery.

The formation of supraglacial ponds can be a positive feedback cycle, since the surface water absorbs and stores solar radiation and melts the glacier ice beneath, allowing ponds to expand. This feedback cycle can lead to large glacial lake development on stagnating and thinning glacier tongues, and the lakes have potentially hazardous implications for downstream communities. This work aims to quantify the importance of supraglacial ponds and ice cliffs for ablation and water fluxes at a glacier scale.


  • To investigate supraglacial pond development (area/volume fluctuations) using field observations of pond bathymetry and remotely sensed imagery.
  • To investigate the spatio-temporal characteristics and variable morphology of ice cliffs in the Everest region.
  • To quantify the contribution of ice cliff melt to a debris-covered glacier ablation budget using multi-temporal Structure-from-Motion surveys.


Research affiliations

River Basin Processes and Management


University Research Scholarship

Conferences/training courses

  • EGU General Assembly 2017:
    • Watson, C.S., Quincey, D., Smith, M., Carrivick, J., Rowan, A., and James, M. 2017. Quantifying 3D ice cliff evolution with multi-temporal point clouds on the debris-covered Khumbu Glacier, Nepal (poster presentation)
    • Quincey, D., Smith, M., Rounce, D., Ross, A., King, O., and Watson, C.S. 2017. Estimating the aerodynamic roughness of debris covered glacier ice (poster)

  • EGU General Assembly 2016:
    • Quincey, D., Rowan, A., Gibson, M., Irvine-Fynn, T., King, O., and Watson, C.S. 2016. Processes driving rapid morphological changes observed on the Khumbu Glacier, Nepal. EGU General Assembly 2016 (poster).
    • Rounce, D., McKinney, D., Lala, J., Byers, A., and Watson, C.S. 2016. Hazard and Risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in the Nepal Himalaya. EGU General Assembly 2016 (poster).
    • Westoby, M., Dunning, S., Allan, M., Smith, M., Quincey, D., Carrivick, J., and Watson, C.S. 2016. From an ’ice-see’ perspective: The current use, potential and limitations of Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry for cryospheric applications. EGU General Assembly 2016 (PICO).

  • International Glaciological Society British Branch Meeting. 2nd - 3rd September, 2015
    • Watson, C.S., Quincey, D., Carrivick, J., Smith, M., and Rowan, A. 2016. Ice cliff, supraglacial pond, and water storage dynamics in the Everest region of Nepal. International Glaciological Society British Branch Meeting (poster presentation).

  • NERC Software Carpentry Workshop
  • British Society for Geomorphology Windsor Workshop 2014
  • Upland Hydrology in the UK – 10th March 2014


  • 2017 Leeds for Life Conference Award (EGU 2017)
  • 2016 British Society for Geomorphology Conference Attendance Grant (EGU 2017)
  • 2015 Mount Everest Foundation expedition grant
  • 2015 Petzl Foundation expedition grant
  • 2015 water@Leeds SPRING grant
  • Chris Leigh Prize- best transfer physical geography
  • 2015 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Geographical Fieldwork Grant
  • 2015 British Society for Geomorphology Postgraduate Research Grant
  • 2014 water@Leeds SPRING grant
  • 2013 School of Geography Masters scholarship (partial)

Short Curriculum Vitae

  • 2014 - UK Mountain Leader (summer)
  • 2013 - 2014   MSc River Basin Dynamics and Management with GIS – Class: Distinction: University of Leeds. Dissertation: Remote sensing-based first-order assessment of glacial lake hazards and downstream vulnerability in the Chamkar Chu river basin, Bhutan Himalaya.
  • 2009 - 2012   BSc (Hons) Geography - Class I: University of Leeds. Dissertation: Distribution and impact of Impatiens glandulifera on plant biodiversity and potential for future spread on Otley Chevin Forest Park.


  • Quincey, D. Klaar, M. Haines, D. Lovett, J. Pariyar, B. Gurung, G. Brown, L. Watson. C.S. England, M. and Evans, B. 2017. The changing water cycle: the need for an integrated assessment of the resilience to changes in water supply in High-Mountain Asia. WIREs Water. DOI: 10.1002/wat2.1258

  • Watson, C.S. Quincey, D.J. Smith, M.W. Carrivick, J.L. Rowan, A.V. and James, M.J. 2017. Quantifying ice cliff evolution with multi-temporal point clouds on the debris-covered Khumbu Glacier, Nepal. Journal of Glaciology. DOI: 10.1017/jog.2017.47

  • Watson, C.S. Quincey, D.J. Smith, M.W. Carrivick, J.L. Rowan, A.V. Richardson, R. 2017. Heterogeneous water storage and thermal regime of supraglacial ponds on debris-covered glaciers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.4236

  • Rounce, D. Watson, C.S. and McKinney, D. 2017. Identification of Hazard and Risk for Glacial Lakes in the Nepal Himalaya Using Satellite Imagery from 2000–2015. Remote Sensing. 9(7).

  • Quincey, D. J. Smith, M. W. Rounce, D. R. Ross, A. N. King, O. and Watson, C. S. 2017. Evaluating morphological estimates of the aerodynamic roughness of debris covered glacier ice. Earth Surf. Process. Landforms, doi: 10.1002/esp.4198.

  • Watson, C.S. Quincey, D.J. Carrivick, J.L. and Smith, M.W. 2017. Ice cliff dynamics in the Everest region of the Central Himalaya, Geomorphology. 278. 238-251.
  • Rounce, D. R., McKinney, D. C., Lala, J. M., Byers, A. C., and Watson, C. S.: A new remote hazard and risk assessment framework for glacial lakes in the Nepal Himalaya, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 20. 3455-3475.

  • Watson, C.S. Quincey, D.J. Carrivick, J.L. and Smith, M.W. 2016. The dynamics of supraglacial ponds in the Everest region, central Himalaya. Global and Planetary Change. 142. 14-27.

  • Watson, C.S. Carrivick, J. and Quincey, D.J. 2015. An improved method to represent DEM uncertainty in glacial lake outburst flood propagation using stochastic simulations. Journal of Hydrology. 529. 1373–1389.

  • Watson, C.S. and Quincey, D.J. 2015. Section 3.4.5: Glacier Movement. In: Clarke, L.E & Nield, J.M. (Eds.) Geomorphological Techniques (Online Edition). British Society for Geomorphology; London, UK. ISSN: 2047-0371. Available here.