Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
The Cryosphere, 7, 889–904, 2013
The Cryosphere, 7, 889–904, 2013

Research article 28 May 2013

Research article | 28 May 2013

Quantifying present and future glacier melt-water contribution to runoff in a central Himalayan river basin

M. Prasch1, W. Mauser1, and M. Weber2 M. Prasch et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, LMU Munich, Germany
  • 2Commission for Geodesy and Glaciology, Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Munich, Germany

Abstract. Water supply of most lowland cultures heavily depends on rain and melt water from the upstream mountains. Especially melt-water release of alpine mountain ranges is usually attributed a pivotal role for the water supply of large downstream regions. Water scarcity is assumed as consequence of glacier shrinkage and possible disappearance due to global climate change (GCC), in particular for large parts of Central and Southeast Asia. In this paper, the application and validation of a coupled modeling approach with regional climate model (RCM) outputs and a process-oriented glacier and hydrological model is presented for the central Himalayan Lhasa River basin despite scarce data availability. Current and possible future contributions of ice melt to runoff along the river network are spatially explicitly shown. Its role among the other water balance components is presented. Although glaciers have retreated and will continue to retreat according to the chosen climate scenarios, water availability is and will be primarily determined by monsoon precipitation and snowmelt. Ice melt from glaciers is and will be a minor runoff component in summer monsoon-dominated Himalayan river basins.