2023
  • Non-ICIMOD publication

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Assessment of Runoff Components of River Flow in the Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan, during 1995-2010

  • Mateeul Haq
  • Muhammad Jawed Iqbal
  • Khan Alam
  • Zhongwei Huang
  • Thomas Blaschke
  • Salman Qureshi
  • Sher Muhammad
  • Summary

Glaciers are generally believed to be subjugating by global warming but the Karakoram glaciers are reportedly maintaining their balance. Earlier studies in the Karakoram and its sub-basins have mostly addressed a short span of time and used complex models to understand the phenomenon. Thus, this study is based on a long-term trend analysis of the computed runoff components using satellite data with continuous spatial and temporal coverage incorporated into a simple degree day Snowmelt Runoff Model (SRM). The trends of melt runoff components can help us understanding the future scenarios of the glaciers in the study area. The SRM was calibrated against the recorded river flows in the Hunza River Basin (HRB). Our simulations showed that runoff contribution from rain, snow, and glaciers are 14.4%, 34.2%, and 51.4%, respectively during 1995-2010. The melting during the summer has slightly increased, suggesting overall but modest glacier mass loss which consistent with a few recent studies. The annual stream flows showed a rising trend during the 1995-2010 period, while, rainfall and temperatures showed contrasting increasing/decreasing behavior in the July, August, and September months during the same period. The average decreasing temperatures (0.08 °C per annum) in July, August, and September makes it challenging and unclear to explain the reason for this rising trend of runoff but a rise in precipitation in the same months affirms the rise in basin flows. At times, the warmer rainwater over the snow and glacier surfaces also contributed to excessive melting. Moreover, the uncertainties in the recorded hydrological, meteorological, and remote sensing data due to low temporal and spatial resolution also portrayed contrasting results. Gradual climate change in the HRB can affect river flows in the near future, requiring effective water resource management to mitigate any adverse impacts. This study shows that assessment of long-term runoff components can be a good alternative to detect changes in melting glaciers with minimal field observations. © 2023 by the authors.