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An assessment of basin-scale glaciological and hydrological sensitivities in the Hindu Kush–Himalaya

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2016

Joseph M. Shea*
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Khumaltar, Kathmandu, Nepal
Walter W. Immerzeel
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Khumaltar, Kathmandu, Nepal Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
Correspondence: Joseph M. Shea <>
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Glacier responses to future climate change will affect hydrology at sub-basin scales. The main goal of this study is to assess glaciological and hydrological sensitivities of sub-basins throughout the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region. We use a simple geometrical analysis based on a full glacier inventory and digital elevation model to estimate sub-basin equilibrium-line altitudes (ELAs) from assumptions of steady-state accumulation area ratios. The ELA response to an increase in temperature is expressed as a function of mean annual precipitation, derived from a range of high-altitude studies. Changes in glacier contributions to streamflow in response to increased temperatures are examined for scenarios of both static and adjusted glacier geometries. On average, glacier contributions to streamflow increase by ~50% for a +1 K warming based on a static geometry. Large decreases (-60% on average) occur in all basins when glacier geometries are instantaneously adjusted to reflect the new ELA. Finally, we provide estimates of sub-basin glacier response times that suggest a majority of basins will experience declining glacier contributions by 2100.

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