Assessing the Influence of the Merzbacher Lake Outburst Floods on Discharge Using the Hydrological Model Swim in the Aksu Headwaters, Kyrgyzstan/Nw China (2014)

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Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) often have a significant impact on downstream users. Including their effects in hydrological models, identifying past occurrences and assessing their potential impacts are challenges for hydrologists working in mountainous catchments. The regularly outbursting Merzbacher Lake is located in the headwaters of the Aksu River, the most important source of water discharge to the Tarim River, northwest China. Modelling its water resources and the evaluation of potential climate change impacts on river discharge are indispensable for projecting future water availability for the intensively cultivated river oases downstream of the Merzbacher Lake and along the Tarim River. The semi-distributed hydrological model SWIM was calibrated to the outlet station Xiehela on the Kumarik River, by discharge the largest tributary to the Aksu River. The glacial lake outburst floods add to the difficulties of modelling this high-mountain, heavily glaciated catchment with poor data coverage and quality. The aims of the study are to investigate the glacier lake outburst floods using a modelling tool. Results include a two-step model calibration of the Kumarik catchment, an approach for the identification of the outburst floods using the measured gauge data and the modelling results and estimations of the outburst flood volumes. Results show that a catchment model can inform GLOF investigations by providing ‘normal’ (i.e. without the outburst floods) catchment discharge. The comparison of the simulated and observed discharge proves the occurrence of GLOFs and highlights the influences of the GLOFs on the downstream water balance. © 2013 The Authors. Hydrological Processes Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Year: 2014
Language: English
In: Hydrological Processes, 28 (26): 6337-6350 p.

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 Record created 2015-02-05, last modified 2015-02-05