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Review Article: Inferring Permafrost and Permafrost Thaw in the Mountains of the Hindu Kush Himalaya Region
Schmid, M. O.
The cryosphere reacts sensitively to climate change, as evidenced by the widespread retreat of mountain glaciers
. Subsurface ice contained in permafrost is similarly affected by climate change, causing persistent impacts on natural and human systems. In contrast to glaciers, permafrost is not observable spatially and therefore its presence and possible changes are frequently overlooked. Correspondingly, little is known about permafrost in the mountains of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region, despite permafrost area exceeding that of glaciers in nearly all countries. Based on evidence and insight gained mostly in other permafrost areas globally, this review provides a synopsis on what is known or can be inferred about permafrost in the mountains of the HKH region. Given the extreme nature of the environment concerned, it is to be expected that the diversity of conditions and phenomena encountered in permafrost exceed what has previously been described and investigated. We further argue that climate change in concert with increasing development will bring about diverse permafrost-related impacts on vegetation, water quality, geohazards, and livelihoods. To better anticipate and mitigate these effects, a deepened understanding of high-elevation permafrost in subtropical latitudes as well as the pathways interconnecting environmental changes and human livelihoods are needed
Brief Communication: Glaciers in the Hunza Catchment (Karakoram) Have Been Nearly in Balance since the 1970s
Previous geodetic estimates of mass changes in the Karakoram revealed balanced budgets or a possible slight mass gain since ∼ 2000
. Indications of longer-term stability exist but only very few mass budget analyses are available before 2000. Here, based on 1973 Hexagon KH-9, ∼ 2009 ASTER and the SRTM DTM, we show that glaciers in the Hunza River basin (central Karakoram) were on average in balance or showed slight insignificant mass loss within the period ∼ 1973–2009. Heterogeneous behaviour and frequent surge activities were also characteristic of the period before 2000. Surge-type and non-surge-type glaciers showed on average no significantly different mass change values. However, some individual glacier mass change rates differed significantly for the periods before and after ∼ 2000
Climate and Topographic Controls on Snow Cover Dynamics in the Hindu Kush Himalaya
Gurung, D. R.
Maharjan, S. B.
Shrestha, A. B.
Shrestha, M. S.
Bajracharya, S. R.
Murthy, M. S. R.
Snow governs interaction between atmospheric and land surface processes in high mountains, and is also source of fresh water
. It is thus important to both climate scientists and local communities. However, our understanding of snow cover dynamics in terms of space and time is limited across the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region, which is known to be a climatically sensitive region. We used MODIS snow cover area (SCA) data (2003–2012), APHRODITE temperature data (2000–2007), and monthly long term in-situ river discharge data of the Gandaki (1968–2010), Koshi (1977–2010) and Manas (1987–2004) basins to analyse variations among four basins. We gained insights into short term SCA and temperature, long term discharge trends, and regional variability thereby. Strong correlations were observed among SCA, temperature and discharge thereby highlighting the strong nexus between them. Temporal and spatial snow cover variability across the basins is strongly coupled with the variability of two weather systems: Western Disturbances (WD) and Indian Monsoon System (IMS), and strongly influenced by topography. Manifestation of these variability in terms if downstream discharge can have repercussion to water based sectors: hydropower and agriculture, as low flow seasons is seen affected. This study adds to our knowledge of snow fall and melt dynamics in the HKH region, and intra-annual snow melt contributions to downstream discharges. The study is limited by short span of data and it is desirable to perform a similar study using data representing a much longer time span
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