Climate Sensitivity of Snow Water Equivalent and Snowmelt Runoff in a Himalayan Catchment (2016)

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Snow is an important component of water storage in the Himalayas. Previous snowmelt studies in the Himalayas have predominantly relied on remotely sensed snow cover. However this provides no information on the actual amount of water stored in a snowpack i.e. the snow water equivalent (SWE). Therefore, in this study remotely sensed snow cover was combined with in situ meteorological observations and a modified version of the seNorge snow model to estimate climate sensitivity of SWE and snowmelt runoff in the Langtang catchment in Nepal. Landsat 8 and MOD10A2 snow cover maps were validated with in situ snow cover observations provided by surface temperature and snow depth measurements resulting in classification accuracies of 85.7 % and 83.1 % respectively. Optimal model parameter values were obtained through data assimilation of MOD10A2 snow maps and snow depth measurements using an Ensemble Kalman filter. The approach of modelling snow depth in a Kalman filter framework allows for data-constrained estimation of SWE rather than snow cover alone and this has great potential for future studies in the Himalayas. Climate sensitivity tests with the optimized snow model show a strong decrease in SWE in the valley with increasing temperature. However, at high elevation a decrease in SWE is (partly) compensated by an increase in precipitation, which emphasizes the need for accurate predictions on the changes in the spatial distribution of precipitation along with changes in temperature. Finally the climate sensitivity study revealed that snowmelt runoff increases in winter and early melt season (December to May) and decreases during the late melt season (June to September) as a result of the earlier onset of snowmelt due to increasing temperature.
Year: 2016
Language: English
In: The Cryosphere Discuss., 2016 : 1-28 p.

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 Record created 2017-01-06, last modified 2017-01-06