Capacity Building and Twinning

In addition to worldwide data compilation and dissemination, the WGMS is continuously involved in capacity building and twinning activities. These activities are mostly covered by third party funded projects. The well-known glacier monitoring programmes and the WGMS network represent ideal platforms and gateways to reach local stakeholders. They are therefore considered essential channels for capacity building and twinning efforts. Reciprocally, these collaborations are very important enhancers of the monitoring programmes in terms of strengthening, maintaining, and improving systematic glacier and natural hazard monitoring.

Current capacity building and twinning projects and programmes at WGMS:

CATCOS: “Capacity Building and Twinning for Climate Observing Systems”

In the context of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the project CATCOS aims at improving the capacity for measurements of greenhouse gases, aerosols and glacier mass balances in different regions of the world with data gaps. In close collaboration with regional partners, the glaciological work packages of the project aim at (i) continuing in-situ mass balance measurements at La Conejera (CO) and Antizana15Alpha (EC) in combination with (ii) new geodetic surveys of these glaciers, as well as (iii) re-initiating in-situ mass balance measurements at Abramov, Golubin, and Suyok Zapadniy glaciers (KG). The project is coordinated by MeteoSwiss and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Blog entry by MeteoSwiss on the “Completion of the CATCOS project” (26.04.2017, in german only)




SMD4GC: “Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change”

Within the SMD4GC programme, support to sustainable mountain development (SMD) is provided to increase the resilience of the mountain population, which is most vulnerable to the ongoing global changes. The overall goal of SMD4GC is to essentially contribute to SMD under uncertain changes in climatic, environmental and socio-economic conditions, focusing on poverty and risk reduction. Thereby, the main focus is on knowledge management and targeted capacity building and twinning activities related to internationally coordinated glacier monitoring. These include the compilation of a global cooperation database to increase the visibility of Principal Investigators involved in glacier monitoring, the country-wise assessment of the glacier monitoring status, the organization of training courses (see below), the hosting of guest scientists at University of Zurich and WGMS (see below), and on-site support. Moreover, SMD issues will be integrated in existing capacity building courses, especially on postgraduate university levels. The programme is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

More details on the programme and the URL’s of related partners are given in Wehrli (2014): Why Mountains Matter for Sustainable Development. Mountain Research and Development 34(4): 405-409. 2014


The WGMS regularly organizes international summerschools on mass balance measurements and analysis. The participants, mainly local investigators involved in ongoing mass balance programmes in their region, are trained in both field and office work by an international team of experts in glacier monitoring and capacity building. The summer schools in Zermatt (CH, 2013), Bishkek (KG, 2015), and La Paz (BO, 2016) are carried out within the framework of the project CATCOS while upcoming summer schools are planned to be realized within the SMD4GC programme.


2-8 August 2015, Central Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences, Bishkek and Suyok Zpapadniy Glacier, Kyrgyzstan (Photograph by Horst Machguth)


As part of its capacity building and twinning activities, the WGMS regularly hosts and welcomes researchers from all over the world to work as a guest scientist at the University of Zurich. This exchange of experience forms the basis for successful collaborative projects and/or publications and helps to disseminate knowledge on glacier monitoring. Furthermore, the WGMS continuously offers internships to young international trainees to assist the team in their daily business.


In 2015, the WGMS and the GLACIOCLIM, run by LGGE and LTHE (OSUG) in France, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the purpose to establish a working relationship of mutual collaboration between the two institutions. The aim of this effort is not only to gather long-term glaciological data but also to coordinate and strengthen capacity building and twinning activities in order to enhance the monitoring and scientific study of the world’s glaciers. Both sides agree to contribute in a joint effort to train students and local partners in their regions of interest where glacier monitoring is performed. On the long term, this is expected to highly improve the availability, quality, and accuracy of glacier data.

last change 27/04/2017