Role of snow and glacier melt in controlling river hydrology in Liddar watershed (western Himalaya) under current and future climate

Authors


Corresponding author: G. Jeelani, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Kashmir, Hazratbal Srinagar, India. (geojeelani@gmail.com)

Abstract

[1] Snowmelt and icemelt are believed to be important regulators of seasonal discharge of Himalayan rivers. To analyze the long term contribution of snowmelt and glacier/icemelt to river hydrology we apply a water budget model to simulate hydrology of the Liddar watershed in the western Himalaya, India for the 20th century (1901–2010) and future IPCC A1B climate change scenario. Long term (1901–2010) temperature and precipitation data in this region show a warming trend (0.08°C yr−1) and an increase in precipitation (0.28 mm yr−1), with a significant variability in seasonal trends. In particular, winter months have undergone the most warming, along with a decrease in precipitation rates; precipitation has increased throughout the spring. These trends have accelerated the melting and rapid disappearance of snow, causing a seasonal redistribution in the availability of water. Our model results show that about 60% of the annual runoff of the Liddar watershed is contributed from the snowmelt, while only 2% is contributed from glacier ice. The climate trend observed from the 1901 to 2010 time period and its impact on the availability of water will become significantly worse under the IPCC climate change scenarios. Our results suggest that there is a significant shift in the timing and quantity of water runoff in this region of the Himalayas due to snow distribution and melt. With greatly increased spring runoff and its reductions in summer potentially leading to reduced water availability for irrigation agriculture in summer.

Ancillary