Quantification of different flow components in a high-altitude glacierized catchment (Dudh Koshi, Himalaya): some cryospheric-related issues
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
Abstract. In a context of climate change and water demand growth, understanding the origin of water flows in the Himalayas is a key issue for assessing the current and future water resource availability and planning the future uses of water in downstream regions. Two of the main issues in the hydrology of high-altitude glacierized catchments are (i) the limited representation of cryospheric processes controlling the evolution of ice and snow in distributed hydrological models and (ii) the
... and (ii) the difficulty in defining and quantifying the hydrological contributions to the river outflow. This study estimates the relative contribution of rainfall, glaciers, and snowmelt to the Khumbu River streamflow (Upper Dudh Koshi, Nepal, 146 km2, 43 % glacierized, elevation range from 4260 to 8848 m a.s.l.) as well as the seasonal, daily, and sub-daily variability during the period 2012–2015 by using the DHSVM-GDM (Distributed Hydrological Soil Vegetation Model – Glaciers Dynamics Model) physically based glacio-hydrological model. The impact of different snow and glacier parameterizations was tested by modifying the snow albedo parameterization, adding an avalanche module, adding a reduction factor for the melt of debris-covered glaciers, and adding a conceptual englacial storage. The representation of snow, glacier, and hydrological processes was evaluated using three types of data (MODIS satellite images, glacier mass balances, and in situ discharge measurements). The relative flow components were estimated using two different definitions based on the water inputs and contributing areas. The simulated hydrological contributions differ not only depending on the used models and implemented processes, but also on different definitions of the estimated flow components. In the presented case study, ice melt and snowmelt contribute each more than 40 % to the annual water inputs and 69 % of the annual stream flow originates from glacierized areas. The analysis of the seasonal contributions highlights that ice melt and snowmelt as well as rain contribute to monsoon flows in similar proportions and that winter outflow is mainly controlled by the release from the englacial water storage. The choice of a given parametrization for snow and glacier processes, as well as their relative parameter values, has a significant impact on the simulated water balance: for instance, the different tested parameterizations led to ice melt contributions ranging from 42 % to 54 %. The sensitivity of the model to the glacier inventory was also tested, demonstrating that the uncertainty related to the glacierized surface leads to an uncertainty of 20 % for the simulated ice melt component.