• ICIMOD publication


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The Status of Glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region

  • Bajracharya, S. R.
  • Shrestha, B.
  • Summary

The cryosphere plays a significant role in the regional climatic system and is a sensitive indicator of global climate change, but to date there has been a marked lack of consistent, long-term information on glaciers and snow cover in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region to support assessments and analysis. This publication offers the first consistent and comprehensive account of the glacier coverage of the entire HKH region, based on a standardised analysis of satellite images (Landsat ETM+) from around the year 2005, in combination with Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation models and the use of a consistent semi-automated methodology. The data are analysed for the region’s ten major river basins and their sub-basins. The glaciers in the region were found to number more than 54,000, covering an area of 60,000 km2. Glaciers were analysed for area, elevation range, slope, and aspect. In addition, 28,500 glaciers with a total area of 32,000 km2 were analysed for debris cover, morphology, and hypsometry. The report represents a significant first step in filling the gap in information on the glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. The data are expected to support regional level assessments and the development of strategies and policies in the context of climate change, and will also contribute to increased understanding of the impacts of climate change on glaciers and the implications for the mountain ecosystem and for water availability in the downstream countries.