Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more ➡
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Add note
Save to My Library
Sync to mobile
Look up keyword
Like this
3Activity
×
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Himalayan Glaciers

Himalayan Glaciers

Ratings: (0)|Views: 1,478|Likes:
Published by earthandlife
Scientific evidence shows that most glaciers in South Asia’s Hindu Kush Himalayan region are retreating, but the consequences for the region’s water supply are unclear, this report finds. The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is the location of several of Asia’s great river systems, which provide water for drinking, irrigation, and other uses for about 1.5 billion people. Recent studies show that at lower elevations, glacial retreat is unlikely to cause significant changes in water availability over the next several decades, but other factors, including groundwater depletion and increasing human water use, could have a greater impact. Higher elevation areas could experience altered water flow in some river basins if current rates of glacial retreat continue, but shifts in the location, intensity, and variability of rain and snow due to climate change will likely have a greater impact on regional water supplies.
Scientific evidence shows that most glaciers in South Asia’s Hindu Kush Himalayan region are retreating, but the consequences for the region’s water supply are unclear, this report finds. The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is the location of several of Asia’s great river systems, which provide water for drinking, irrigation, and other uses for about 1.5 billion people. Recent studies show that at lower elevations, glacial retreat is unlikely to cause significant changes in water availability over the next several decades, but other factors, including groundwater depletion and increasing human water use, could have a greater impact. Higher elevation areas could experience altered water flow in some river basins if current rates of glacial retreat continue, but shifts in the location, intensity, and variability of rain and snow due to climate change will likely have a greater impact on regional water supplies.

More info:

categoriesTypes, Research, Science
Published by: earthandlife on Sep 12, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See More
See less

09/22/2013

pdf

text

original

 
T
he Himalayanregion, whichcovers eightcountries across Asia,is home to some of theworld’s largest andmost spectacular glaciers. The melt-water generated fromthese glaciers eachsummer supplementsthe rivers and streamsof the region, includingseveral of Asia’s greatriver systems such asthe Indus, Ganges, andBrahmaputra.Rising tempera-tures due to climatechange are causingglaciers worldwide toshrink in volume andmass, a phenomenonknown as glacialretreat (see Box 1).
Scientic evidence shows that most glaciers in
the Himalayan region are retreating, leading toconcerns that, over time, the glaciers of theHindu Kush Himalayas will dwindle in sizeuntil normal glacier melt can no longer contribute to the region’s water supply eachyear.Although the entire Himalayan climate ischanging, the region is so vast and so varied— including variations in climate; the timing,
Scientic evidence shows that most glaciers in South Asia’s Hindu Kush Himalayan region areretreating, but the consequences for the region’s water supply are unclear, this report nds.The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is the location of several of Asia’s great river systems,which provide water for drinking, irrigation, and other uses for about 1.5 billion people.Recent studies show that at lower elevations, glacial retreat is unlikely to cause signicantchanges in water availability over the next several decades, but other factors, includinggroundwater depletion and increasing human water use, could have a greater impact. Higherelevation areas could experience altered water ow in some river basins if current rates of glacial retreat continue, but shifts in the location, intensity, and variability of rain and snowdue to climate change will likely have a greater impact on regional water supplies.
Himalayan Glaciers
Climate Change, Water Resources, andWater Security
Figure 1.
Extending over 2000 kilometers across the Asian continent and including allor part of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, theHindu Kush Himalayan region is the source for many of Asia’s major river systems,including the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra.
 
amount, and type of precipitation; and in glacial behavior and dynamics across the region—that itremains challenging to determine exactlyhow retreating glaciers will affect water supply in each location. Furthermore, it islikely that the contribution of glacier melt-water to water supply in the Hindu KushHimalayan region may have been overesti-mated in the past, for example, by notdifferentiating between the contributions towater supply of meltwater from glaciers andmeltwater from snow.
Regional Climate Variations AffectGlacial Retreat
Glaciers in the eastern and centralregions of the Himalayas appear to beretreating at rates that have accelerated over the past century and are comparable to thosein other parts of the world. In the westernHimalayas, glaciers are more stable and mayeven be increasing in size. Although histor-ical climate data about the region is sparse,
scientists are fairly condent about projec
-tions of future temperature increases. Thereis more uncertainty in projections of future changesin precipitation, but shifts in the location and inten-sity of snow and rain could also affect the rate of glacial retreat.
Estimating Effects of Glacial Retreat onWater Supply
The contribution of glacier melt to water supplyvaries across the region and is highly seasonal (seeFigure 2). Furthermore, due to factors including theremoteness and political instability of some parts of 
the Hindu Kush Himalayas, hydrological eld data
from the region is sparse. Recently, researchers
have sought to identify scientic gaps and impor 
-tant geographical nuances associated with thehydrology of the region. The research suggestsglacier meltwater contributes less to the HinduKush Himalayan region’s water supply than previ-ously thought. For example, modeling showed thatin Nepal, the glacial meltwater contribution totributaries to the Ganges varies from approximately20 percent in the Budhai Gandaki basin to approxi-mately 2 percent in the Likhu Khola basin.Overall, retreating glaciers over the next several
decades are unlikely to cause signicant changes in
water availability at lower elevations, which depend primarily on monsoon rains. However, for highelevation areas, current glacier retreat rates, if they
continue, could alter streamow in some basins.
 Box 1. Understanding Glacier Melt and Retreat 
Glaciers grow and shrink as seasons change over the course of each year. Glacier mass is lost when summer temperaturescause glacier melting, and mass is added when precipitationsuch as snow and rain freezes. When a glacier is in steady statewith the climate, glacier melt is offset when precipitationfreezes, and overall glacier mass and volume stay about thesame. Glacier retreat occurs when rising temperatures caused by climate change lead to permanent decreases in glacier massand volume. This image shows plateau glaciers with glacier lakes at Gangrinchemzoe Pass in Bhutan.
Source: USGS
Figure 2.
The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is so vast that there are greatvariations in climate, hydrology, glacier behavior, and the timing of  precipitation. At the base of the foothills of the Himalayas, the climate istropical, while at higher elevations there is permanent ice and snow. Thereare also variations from the west, where rainfall is scarce year round andmost precipitation falls in the form of snow each winter; to the east, wheremost precipitation falls as heavy monsoon rains each summer.
 
next few decades, water stress could be intensied.
Water scarcity will likely affect the rural and urban poor most severely, as these groups have the leastcapacity to adapt to changing environmental andsocial conditions by moving to new locations asneeded.Although existing demographic methods do not
allow for ne-grained projections of populationgrowth at specic locations, it is predicted that the
region will become increasingly urbanized as citiesexpand to absorb migrants in search of economicopportunities. As living standards and populationsrise, water use will likely increase—for example, asmore people eat diets rich in meat, more water will beneeded for agricultural use. The effects of futureclimate change could further exacerbate water stress.Water resources management and the provision of clean water and sanitation is already a challenge in theHindu Kush Himalayan region. The changes inclimate and water availability warrant small-scale
adaptations with effective, exible management that
can adjust to the changing conditions. The adequacyand effectiveness of existing water managementinstitutions, which focus on natural hazards anddisaster reduction, provide an indicator of how theregion will likely cope with changes in water supply.Although the history of international river disputes suggests that cooperation is more likely than
violent conict, current political disputes in the region
Assuming annual precipitation in theform of snow and freezing rain remainsthe same, the loss of water stored asglacial ice will likely not change theamount of meltwater that supplementsrivers and streams each summer.Glacial meltwater can act as a buffer against the hydrologic impacts of achanging climate, such as drought.Insight on this process can be drawnfrom regions where there is a greater amount of data on the contribution of glacial melt to water supply. For example,during the 2003 European drought,glacial meltwater from the Alps contrib-uted about three times more water to theDanube River than the 100 year average.Thus, water stored as glacial ice couldserve as the Himalayan region’s hydro-logic “insurance.” Although retreatingglaciers would provide more meltwater inthe shorter term as glaciers shrink, theloss of glacier insurance could become problematic over the longer term.Groundwater is an integral part of the Hindu KushHimalayan regions hydrology, although uncertaintiesabout its contributions to water supply are great. It isclear that groundwater is already being depleted inmany areas, with evidence that in the central GangesBasin, overdraft of groundwater is likely to have anearlier and larger impact on water supplies thanforeseeable changes in the supply of glacial meltwater.There have been concerns that pulses of increasedmeltwater generated as glaciers retreat could cause
ooding in downstream communities. Although it is
unlikely that glacial retreat in the Hindu Kush
Himalayan region would lead to ows of water largeand rapid enough to cause ooding, the region doesface other physical hazards. These include ashooding due to extreme precipitation, ooding due tomonsoon rainfall, and ooding that is caused when
water dammed by a glacier or sediment is rapidlyreleased due to failure of the dam.
Water Use and Water Security
Social changes in the Hindu Kush Himalayanregion, such as changing patterns of water use andwater management decisions, are likely to have atleast as much of an impact on water demand as envi-ronmental factors do on water supply. Many of theregions river basins are already water stressed, andwith projections of rapid population growth over the
Figure 3.
The Hindu Kush Himalayan region contains some of Earth’s mostdensely populated areas, and some of the planet’s most sparsely inhabitedregions.

Activity (3)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->