The mountain regions of the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and Himalayas (HKH) are considered Earth’s “third pole,” and water from there plays an essential role for downstream populations. The dynamics of glaciers in Karakoram are complex, and in recent decades the area has experienced unchanged ice cover, despite rapid decline elsewhere in the world (the Karakoram anomaly). Assessment of future water resources and hydrological variability under climate change in this area is greatly needed, but the hydrology of these high-altitude catchments is still poorly studied and little understood. This study focuses on a particular watershed, the Shigar River with the control section at Shigar (about 7000 km2), nested within the upper Indus basin and fed by seasonal melt from two major glaciers (Baltoro and Biafo). Hydrological, meteorological, and glaciological data gathered during 3 years of field campaigns (2011–13) are used to set up a hydrological model, providing a depiction of instream flows, snowmelt, and ice cover thickness. The model is used to assess changes of the hydrological cycle until 2100, via climate projections provided by three state-of-the-art global climate models used in the recent IPCC Fifth Assessment Report under the representative concentration pathway (RCP) emission scenarios RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5. Under all RCPs, future flows are predicted to increase until midcentury and then to decrease, but remaining mostly higher than control run values. Snowmelt is projected to occur earlier, while the ice melt component is expected to increase, with ice thinning considerably and even disappearing below 4000 m MSL until 2100.

Future Hydrological Regimes in the Upper Indus Basin: A Case Study from a High-Altitude Glacierized Catchment

SONCINI, ANDREA;BOCCHIOLA, DANIELE;CONFORTOLA, GABRIELE;BIANCHI, ALBERTO;ROSSO, RENZO;
2015

Abstract

The mountain regions of the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and Himalayas (HKH) are considered Earth’s “third pole,” and water from there plays an essential role for downstream populations. The dynamics of glaciers in Karakoram are complex, and in recent decades the area has experienced unchanged ice cover, despite rapid decline elsewhere in the world (the Karakoram anomaly). Assessment of future water resources and hydrological variability under climate change in this area is greatly needed, but the hydrology of these high-altitude catchments is still poorly studied and little understood. This study focuses on a particular watershed, the Shigar River with the control section at Shigar (about 7000 km2), nested within the upper Indus basin and fed by seasonal melt from two major glaciers (Baltoro and Biafo). Hydrological, meteorological, and glaciological data gathered during 3 years of field campaigns (2011–13) are used to set up a hydrological model, providing a depiction of instream flows, snowmelt, and ice cover thickness. The model is used to assess changes of the hydrological cycle until 2100, via climate projections provided by three state-of-the-art global climate models used in the recent IPCC Fifth Assessment Report under the representative concentration pathway (RCP) emission scenarios RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5. Under all RCPs, future flows are predicted to increase until midcentury and then to decrease, but remaining mostly higher than control run values. Snowmelt is projected to occur earlier, while the ice melt component is expected to increase, with ice thinning considerably and even disappearing below 4000 m MSL until 2100.
cambiamenti climatici; Hydrology; snow; Climate change; Hydrologic models; Hydrology; Hydrometeorology; Ice loss/growth; Ice thickness; Atmospheric Science
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11311/908558
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