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Missing (in-situ) snow cover data hampers climate change and runoff studies in the Greater Himalayas

Authors
Rohrer, Mario
Salzmann, Nadine
Kulkarni, Anil V.
Published in Science of the Total Environment. 2013, vol. 468-469, p. S60-S70
Abstract The Himalayas are presently holding the largest ice masses outside the polar regions and thus (temporarily) store important freshwater resources. In contrast to the contemplation of glaciers, the role of runoff from snow cover has received comparably little attention in the past, although (i) its contribution is thought to be at least equally or even more important than that of ice melt in many Himalayan catchments and (ii) climate change is expected to have widespread and significant consequences on snowmelt runoff. Here, we show that change assessment of snowmelt runoff and its timing is not as straightforward as often postulated, mainly as larger partial pressure of H2O, CO2, CH4, and other greenhouse gases might increase net long-wave input for snowmelt quite significantly in a future atmosphere. In addition, changes in the short-wave energy balance – such as the pollution of the snow cover through black carbon – or the sensible or latent heat contribution to snowmelt are likely to alter future snowmelt and runoff characteristics as well. For the assessment of snow cover extent and depletion, but also for its monitoring over the extremely large areas of the Himalayas, remote sensing has been used in the past and is likely to become even more important in the future. However, for the calibration and validation of remotely-sensed data, and even more so in light of possible changes in snow-cover energy balance, we strongly call for more in-situ measurements across the Himalayas, in particular for daily data on new snow and snow cover water equivalent, or the respective energy balance components. Moreover, data should be made accessible to the scientific community, so that the latter can more accurately estimate climate change impacts on Himalayan snow cover and possible consequences thereof on runoff.
Keywords Snow coverRemote sensingIn-situ measurementsClimate changeHimalayas
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ROHRER, Mario et al. Missing (in-situ) snow cover data hampers climate change and runoff studies in the Greater Himalayas. In: Science of the Total Environment, 2013, vol. 468-469, p. S60-S70. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:121751

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Deposited on : 2019-08-21

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