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Runoff from glacier ice and seasonal snow in High Asia: separating melt water sources in river flow

Armstrong, Richard L., Rittger, Karl, Brodzik, Mary J., Racoviteanu, Adina, Barrett, Andrew P., Khalsa, Siri-Jodha Singh, Raup, Bruce, Hill, Alice F., Khan, Alia L., Wilson, Alana M., Kayastha, Rijan Bhakta, Fetterer, Florence, Armstrong, Betsy
Regional environmental change 2019 v.19 no.5 pp. 1249-1261
automation, basins, dry season, glaciers, ice, irrigation, melting, models, monsoon season, rain, remote sensing, river flow, runoff, snow, snowmelt, summer, temperature, uncertainty, water power, Asia
Across High Asia, the amount, timing, and spatial patterns of snow and ice melt play key roles in providing water for downstream irrigation, hydropower generation, and general consumption. The goal of this paper is to distinguish the specific contribution of seasonal snow versus glacier ice melt in the major basins of High Mountain Asia: Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, Amu Darya, and Syr Darya. Our methodology involves the application of MODIS-derived remote sensing products to separately calculate daily melt outputs from snow and glacier ice. Using an automated partitioning method, we generate daily maps of (1) snow over glacier ice, (2) exposed glacier ice, and (3) snow over land. These are inputs to a temperature index model that yields melt water volumes contributing to river flow. Results for the five major High Mountain Asia basins show that the western regions are heavily reliant on snow and ice melt sources for summer dry season flow when demand is at a peak, whereas monsoon rainfall dominates runoff during the summer period in the east. While uncertainty remains in the temperature index model applied here, our approach to partitioning melt from seasonal snow and glacier ice is both innovative and systematic and more constrained than previous efforts with similar goals.