Hydrological sensitivity of a large Himalayan basin to climate change

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Abstract

The present study sets out to investigate the sensitivity of water availability to climate change for a large western Himalayan river (the Satluj River basin with an area of 22 275 km(2) and elevation range of 500 to 7000 m), which receives contributions from rain, snow and glacier melt runoff. About 65% of the basin area is covered with snow during winter, which reduces to about 11% after the ablation period. After having calibrated a conceptual hydrological model to provide accurate simulations of observed stream flow, the hydrological response of the basin was simulated using different climatic scenarios over a period of 9 years. Adopted plausible climate scenarios included three temperature scenarios (T + 1, T + 2, T + 3degreesC) and four rainfall scenarios (P - 10, P - 5, P + 5 and P + 10%). The effect of climate change was studied on snowmelt and rainfall contribution runoff, and total stream flow. Under warmer climate, a typical feature of the study basin was found to be reduction in melt from the lower part of the basin owing to a reduction in snow covered area and shortening of the summer melting season, and, in contrast, an increase in the melt from the glacierized part owing to larger melt and an extended ablation period. Thus, on the basin scale, reduction in melt from the lower part was counteracted by the increase from melt from upper part of the basin, resulting in a decrease in the magnitude of change in annual melt runoff. The impact of climate change was found to be more prominent on seasonal rather than annual water availability. Reduction of water availability during the summer period, which contributes about 60% to the annual flow, may have severe implications on the water resources of the region, because demand of water for irrigation, hydropower and other usage is at its peak at this time. Copyright (C) 2004 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Water Engineering

Keywords

  • water, snowmelt runoff, climate change, hydrological sensitivity, availability
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2363-2385
JournalHydrological Processes
Volume18
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes