Snow Cover Trend and Hydrological Characteristics of the Astore River Basin (Western Himalayas) and Its Comparison to the Hunza Basin (Karakoram Region) (2015)

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A large proportion of Pakistan's irrigation water supply is taken from the Upper Indus River Basin (UIB) in the Himalaya–Karakoram–Hindukush range. More than half of the annual flow in the UIB is contributed by five of its snow and glacier-fed sub-basins including the Astore (Western Himalaya — south latitude of the UIB) and Hunza (Central Karakoram — north latitude of the UIB) River basins. Studying the snow cover, its spatio-temporal change and the hydrological response of these sub-basins is important so as to better manage water resources. This paper compares new data from the Astore River basin (mean catchment elevation, 4100 m above sea level; m asl afterwards), obtained using MODIS satellite snow cover images, with data from a previously-studied high-altitude basin, the Hunza (mean catchment elevation, 4650 m asl). The hydrological regime of this sub-catchment was analyzed using the hydrological and climate data available at different altitudes from the basin area. The results suggest that the UIB is a region undergoing a stable or slightly increasing trend of snow cover in the southern (Western Himalayas) and northern (Central Karakoram) parts. Discharge from the UIB is a combination of snow and glacier melt with rainfall-runoff at southern part, but snow and glacier melt are dominant at the northern part of the catchment. Similar snow cover trends (stable or slightly increasing) but different river flow trends (increasing in Astore and decreasing in Hunza) suggest a sub-catchment level study of the UIB to understand thoroughly its hydrological behavior for better flood forecasting and water resources management.
Year: 2015
Language: English
In: Science of The Total Environment, 505 : 748-761 p.

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