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Snow-Cover Mapping and Monitoring in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas

  • Gurung, D. R.
  • Giriraj, A.
  • Aung, K. S.
  • Shrestha, B.
  • Kulkarni, A. V.
  • Summary

Snow is an important component of the cryosphere, and the study of snow trends is essential for understanding regional climate change and for managing water resources. Changes in the snow budget have socioeconomic and environmental implications for agriculture, water-based industries, environment, land management, water supplies, and many others. To date, however, few scientific studies have been available to support a general perception of decline in seasonal snow cover in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region. ‘Snow-Cover Mapping and Monitoring in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas’ is the first comprehensive status report of snow cover in the HKH region. It analyses information from ICIMOD’s regional snow cover monitoring scheme, which is compiled in a database containing snow cover data for the whole region from 2000 to the present, updated weekly. The analysis is based on decadal (2000–2010) 8-day, 500 m spatial resolution snow images recorded by moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS). The report analyses snow cover trends for the decade based on season, altitude, and region. It describes interannual and intra-annual trends for different parts of the region (west, central, and east) and the ten major river basins. As the data cover only one decade, they are not sufficient to yield statistically significant trends. However, there is an indication of an overall decrease in snow cover over the decade in the central HKH region and overall, and a slight increase in the western and eastern parts of the region. The report, and the database on which it is based, will help bridge the data and information gap on snow cover and support further research initiatives. Such information is also useful for planners and policy makers in formulating policies related to climate change and the downstream consequences for water resources.

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