Hydrologic Sensitivities of Upper Indus Basin (North Pakistan) Rivers to Multi-Decadal Climatic Variability
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Thermal inputs play a vital role in the management and seasonal distribution of stream-flows particularly in snow and glacier fed basins, therefore the signatures of the recent climate trends can also be observed in various hydrological variables in those basins. Upper Indus Basin (UIB) is located in the western part of Tibetan Plateau, and most of its flows are dependent on snow- and glacier-melt produced water, thus the analyses of historical stream-flows and climatic indicators in the snow-melt dominated rivers of UIB was carried out, which points towards an advance in the spring flow onset time over the past few decades. Trend results reveal that warm temperature spells in spring have occurred much earlier in recent years, which explains in part the trend in the timing of spring peak stream-flows owing to earlier occurrence of snow melt onset. The observed increase in spring stream-flows and decrease in summer stream-flows suggests a broad shift of snow-melt yield and spring peak flows. These trends are found to be strongest at lower elevations basins where winter temperatures are closer to the melting point, even modest variation in temperatures are capable to enforce large shifts in the basin hydrologic feedback. In addition, it appears that in recent years due to winter and spring warming, more of the precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow particularly in late winter and early spring seasons, consequently it is speculated that this shift in precipitation ratio (snow vs rain) and early warming spells might also affect local (basin-scale) Albedo via early recession and systematic decrease of snow cover area, which tends in lowering Albedo from an increased fraction of snow-free area, which instigate positive feedback on radiative balance that can perhaps causes local-scale heat redistribution, which collectively in turn augmented winter and early spring stream-flows in those basins. These observed hydro-climatological trends over UIB can have significant impacts on water resource planning and management.