Unraveling the Hydrology of a Himalayan Catchment through Integration of High Resolution in Situ Data and Remote Sensing with an Advanced Simulation Model (2015)

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The hydrology of high-elevation watersheds of the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region (HKH) is poorly known. The correct representation of internal states and process dynamics in glacio-hydrological models can often not be verified due to missing in situ measurements. We use a new set of detailed ground data from the upper Langtang valley in Nepal to systematically guide a state-of-the art glacio-hydrological model through a parameter assigning process with the aim to understand the hydrology of the catchment and contribution of snow and ice processes to runoff. 14 parameters are directly calculated on the basis of local data, and 13 parameters are calibrated against 5 different datasets of in situ or remote sensing data. Spatial fields of debris thickness are reconstructed through a novel approach that employs data from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), energy balance modeling and statistical techniques. The model is validated against measured catchment runoff (Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency 0.87) and modeled snow cover is compared to Landsat snow cover. The advanced representation of processes allowed assessing the role played by avalanching for runoff for the first time for a Himalayan catchment (5% of annual water inputs to the hydrological system are due to snow redistribution) and to quantify the hydrological significance of sub-debris ice melt (9% of annual water inputs). Snowmelt is the most important contributor to total runoff during the hydrological year 2012/2013 (representing 40% of all sources), followed by rainfall (34%) and ice melt (26%). A sensitivity analysis is used to assess the efficiency of the monitoring network and identify the timing and location of field measurements that constrain model uncertainty. The methodology to set up a glacio-hydrological model in high-elevation regions presented in this study can be regarded as a benchmark for modelers in the HKH seeking to evaluate their calibration approach, their experimental setup and thus to reduce the predictive model uncertainty.
Year: 2015
Language: English
In: Advances in Water Resources 78 : 94-111

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