Observed and Projected Changes in
Hydrometeorological Variables over
the Indian Himalayas
K. Krishna Kumar, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology
The Indian Himalayas can be divided into different sections: western, central, and eastern; this presentation focused on comparing and contrasting these regions. There is considerable complexity involved in observing changes over the Indian Himalayas. Most of the observations on projected changes in hydrometeorological variables are from the past 10-15 years, including the APHRODITE dataset, which has great promise. Most of the western Himalayas get precipitation in the winter, whereas the central region gets the most precipitation in the monsoon season. The eastern and central regions, dominated by the monsoon, show a decline in precipitation over the past ~50 years. The west does not show a trend in precipitation. Temperature, however, shows a general warming trend, over the last three decades in particular, but the seasonal monsoon is influential. Several researchers are collecting tree-ring data in India from the past 300-400 years in an attempt to reconstruct long-term climate record. In the western Himalaya, tree-ring chronologies indicate an increase in temperatures—in agreement with the temperature trends observed over the past 40-50 years in the western region. Trained models seem to capture end-of-century climatology well, giving hope for projecting into the future. Models indicate that in the near term (2020) the foothills show negative rainfall trends. However, further in the future (2050, 2080) it appears that the precipitation will be enhanced. Models show that the temperature trends will continue monotonically in the future (+2°C in 50 years), in agreement with the results from another model from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change AR4.
Regional Meteorology and Monsoon Dynamics:
Patterns, Changes, and Drivers of Change
Arnico K Panday, University of Virginia
The dominant precipitation patterns in the Himalayan region are summer monsoons (in the central and eastern half of the region), some winter rain and snow, and winter fog as a source of moisture. There are east-west variations and north-south variations, though the latter are not as great. Evidence shows that temperature is increasing more rapidly with altitude; however, there are fewer observation stations at higher elevations, leading to a potential data bias. Over the Ganges Basin, there is an increase in aerosol haze as well as an increase in fog. Snow cover has decreased, which has been particularly noted in 2010 and 2011. There is also clear evidence of glacial retreat in the area, though there are not many studies on how glacial melt affects regional precipitation. There are several drivers of change in the area: greenhouse gases, an increase in aerosols, and a sixfold increase in black carbon emissions. Main sources of aerosols are biofuels from wood cookstoves. Forest fires, urban pollution, and dust being blown from the Thar Desert to the southwest are also contributors. In the Annapurna region, there is a strong buildup of haze with heavy convection on the south
side. The Kali Gandaki Valley is a very open connection to the Tibetan Plateau; this could be a major route of transport of aerosols to the plateau and the glaciers.
What Do We Know About Snow-Darkening
Effects on Himalayan Glaciers?
Teppei J. Yasunari, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Absorbing aerosols such as dust, black carbon, and organic carbon are well-known warming factors in the atmosphere. When aerosols deposit on snow, it causes darkening of snow, causing absorption of more energy at the surface, leading to accelerated melting of snow. If this happens to Himalayan glacier surfaces, the melting may contribute to mass balance changes, though the mass balance itself is a complicated issue. There are limited observations of the effect of snow darkening on glaciers, but most of our knowledge is the result of model simulations. Ice-core measurements of black carbon show much higher concentrations in recent years (1995-present). However, since 1860, there has not been an overall trend of an increase in dust. Black carbon satellite data over the region is still limited, and most of the snow samples measuring black carbon are from the eastern side of the region (e.g., in China). These snow samples show “rings” of very clear deposition that can help track levels of black carbon and dust. The black layers correspond to the spring season (when the atmospheric concentration of black carbon is higher). Though such studies show an increasing trend, we must be careful to integrate measurements to account for seasonality The NASA GEOS-5 model simulations show very large deposition of black carbon in the Himalayan snowpack—much larger than anywhere else in the world. Some studies suggest that this has significantly affected the albedo of the snowpack. This seems to correlate to studies that are showing increases in snow surface temperature and decreases in the snow water equivalent.
Hydroclimate Variability and Change over the
Northern Gangetic Plain and Himalayan Region
Sumant Nigam, University of Maryland, College Park
Analysis of the 20th century observational record can yield insights about future variability and change in the region. Models are not yet able to cover the regional hydroclimate, but the observational record itself has a lot of information that has not been sufficiently mined. AR4 simulations show that various climate products do not agree with each other (or the observations) regarding local trends. As such, there is a widely divergent agreement on projection models. Models can only produce the very broad features of climate and cannot resolve the specifics. However, this does not mean that the climate system cannot be resolved for the natural and secular impacts. Regressions of principal large-scale climate events, such as El Niño and monsoon, over the last century can show robust trends that can be used to reconstruct variables of interest (e.g., temperature and precipitation). Surface temperature is only captured broadly, and a latitudinal increase is observed in the region. If the natural variability can be unraveled from secular change components, analysis of the 20th century observational record could yield insights about future variability and change. There are several techniques to tease out the actual physical components from larger variability. For example, one can look at trends using observations for the full 20th century and the last 60 years. The 60-year trends show decadal variability most likely coming from the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. The century-long trend analysis does not show these trends.
Hydroclimatic Challenges for Pakistan:
Ideational and Material Drivers
Daanish Mustafa, King’s College London
Water has multiple values in all cultures beyond its obvious use for livelihoods and economic value generation. Most modern water management systems in the world tend to be indifferent to the multiple, cultural, spiritual, aesthetic, and identity values that are nevertheless important to water users. There is considerable uncertainty regarding specific climate scenarios at the country scale; but it is certain that past climatic normals will not continue into the future. Climate change for Pakistan, as in the rest of the world, will involve decisions on water management in a context in which past trends are no longer effective guides for future action. Pakistan in particular has suffered some dramatic and unusual hazards over the past decade, ranging from
a multiyear drought in western Pakistan to relatively unusual tropical depressions and cyclones hitting southern Pakistan. Floods in the main-stem Indus River in northwestern Pakistan are extremely rare; the historic 2010 floods were one such occurrence. Pakistan has the largest contiguous surface irrigation system in the world. Much of the water entering the system is withdrawn for irrigation purposes, reducing the amount of water available to flush the system. This leads to a reduction of channel capacity, which was one of the factors in the floods of 2010. Incorporation of concerns about differential vulnerability, environmental quality, and social equity will be critical to building a climate-resilient future for Pakistan. Pakistani water managers will have to incorporate local people’s multiple values for water within their management paradigms and seek to realize multiple social objectives from Pakistan’s water systems beyond just economic growth.
The Glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan
Region: A Summary of the Science Regarding
Glacial Melt and Retreat in the Himalayan,
Hindu Kush, Karakoram, Pamir, and Tien
Shan Mountain Ranges
Richard L. Armstrong, University of Colorado, Boulder
Many of the glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating, especially at the lower elevations in the eastern Himalayas. However, there is no spatially comprehensive or regionwide evidence to support the claim that the glaciers of the Himalayas are retreating faster than any other location in the world. Data are sparse in the region, but the most common is terminus location. The terminus is a point measurement intended to describe the glacier but it does not do an adequate job of describing the entire system. Conditions in the region contrast between the east and the west; data in the region should be compiled. In the east, the river runoff system is dominated by the monsoon. As you move to the west, glacial ice and seasonal snow play a much bigger role. In the west, both the seasonal snow cover and glacier volumes are much more stable that they are in the east. The fact that glaciers across the Himalayas may not be disappearing at as rapid a rate as had been previously thought does not in any way reduce the need for mitigation and adaptation to the response of these glacier systems to climate change in the region. In the short term, well-planned management, conservation, and efficient use of water currently available are certainly as important as any changes that may take place in the regional climate in the near future.
Glacial Lakes and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods
(GLOFs) in the Hindu-Kush Himalayas
Alton C. Byers, The Mountain Institute
As glaciers have melted in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas (HKH) and Andes, hundreds of new glacial lakes have formed behind dams usually consisting of soil and loose boulders. These lakes present a risk of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). GLOFs often cause large loss of life and property downstream. Glacial lakes can become dangerous because they are held at bay by fragile terminal moraines that are susceptible to collapse (earthquakes, slides, etc.). When this breaks, the result is a GLOF. When overhanging ice is present, it can fall, and water can go over the wall. In terms of mitigation possibilities for this type of event, the Andes provide a good example. Between 1940 and 1950, they had several of these sorts of floods killing 10,000 people. In response, the government started working on how to control these floods through the fortification of the terminal moraine with a drainpipe or drilling through bedrock to create a canal to lower the lake level and use the water. A workshop and field expedition were held to discuss whether these technologies might be applicable in Nepal, and researchers discovered the value of local knowledge. The team formed a Global Glacial Lake Partnership to promote and enhance collaboration and communication between scientists.
Himalayas, the Water Towers of Asia:
Can We Reconcile Water Demands
for Livelihood in a Changing Climate?
Shama Perveen, Columbia University
The Himalayan region contains the largest area of glaciers, permafrost, and the largest freshwater resources outside the poles. It is the source of 10 of Asia’s largest rivers and more than a billion people
depend on the river flows for drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and tourism. Already the seasonality of the supply and the increasing demand are not well reconciled. If snowmelt begins early and summer is longer, this will affect subsequent downstream uses. To combat this, you can either conserve or store water. The region is losing groundwater according to GRACE data and we do not know much about recharge. Thus, the groundwater profile is incomplete. In India, there is a proposal for a “linking” project, moving “surplus” water from the Himalayan rivers to the “deficient” peninsular rivers. It was estimated that this would include 9 large dams, 24 small dams, and 12,500 canals and cost 200 billion US$. The proposal did not include a feasibility study and did not account for seasonal spikes in hydrographs. The capacity for the links has not even a 10th the capacity needed to carry peak flow. Another challenge for water resources in the region is sedimentation, where the sediment discharge is the highest in the world. There are large knowledge gaps in the Himalayas hindering educated management, including data, the well-coordinated sharing of knowledge, the remoteness of glaciers, seismic risks, and uncertainties in time and space scales, and diversity of uses/users.
Under Pressure: International Water Management
Challenges in the Himalayan Region
David Michel, The Stimson Center
Water managers across the Himalayan region will confront a host of overlapping socioeconomic, environmental, and policy challenges as they strive to fulfill their societies’ future water needs. In many of the great rivers that rise in the Hindu Kush Himalayan mountains—the Amu Darya, Ganges, Indus, Yellow—total withdrawals nearly equal or even surpass long-term flow balances. Water flows across borders throughout the region, and these rivers are “allocated” or distributed. With population growth in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and changes in dietary patterns, the demand for food will increase. To account for this, irrigation is speculated to increase by 10 percent. Nonagricultural water use will also increase. Projected water deficits vary from country to country and basin to basin, without considering climate change, which would increase the severity of the situation. For example, there are limited options for adaptability on the Indus. Major infrastructure projects in the Himalayas are commencing to increase water storage; many of them occur in interesting political areas. Water wars are an extreme outcome. Water can also lead to cooperative efforts. However, pressures may be greater than have been accounted for in the past. Many treaties do not have mechanisms to account for water instability and they do not include key players (such as China or Afghanistan).
Demographic Trends, Social Trends,
and Possible Futures
Sajeda Amin, Population Council
People have always moved in response to climate. This is not a new phenomenon. Internal migration tends to be to urban areas, although refugees also migrate internationally (e.g., to London, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and India). The climate conversation is dominated by discussions of low-elevation coastal zones, and in this area of the world, there is very little conversation about migration and the associated human rights. Fertility trends in South Asia are declining generally across the board and are stabilizing. However, Pakistan is “lagging” behind in this respect. Infant mortality is also declining (highest rate in Bangladesh). The percent of population in urban areas is growing steadily. Pakistan has the lowest level of female labor, and there is not much movement in female labor force participation. Education levels have improved dramatically, and gender participation has nearly reached parity. There has also been a shift from agriculture to the service sector within the labor force, hence urban migration. Urban growth in Bangladesh is largely in environmentally vulnerable areas.
Regional Population Trends and
Malea Hoepf, Independent Consultant
The countries fed by the Himalayan glaciers have a broad range of demographic histories and futures. All of the countries have experienced dramatic fertility
declines over the last half century, the result of various social and policy changes, ranging from China’s “One Child Policy,” to Bangladesh’s approach that paired government support with improved services and social marketing, to Pakistan’s less successful policies that leave it with one of the highest fertility rates in Asia. These countries also have different population- environment interactions, sometimes pairing traditional developed-country concerns, such as growing carbon emissions and developing-country challenges of feeding large population with food grown from degraded land and diminishing water supplies. The challenges in these countries to handle demographic change and address environmental degradation have important implications for adapting to a changing environment, reducing the risk of conflict, and alleviating poverty for their people in the decades to come.
Inventorying and Monitoring the Recent
Behavior of Afghanistan’s Glaciers
Bruce Molnia, U.S. Geological Survey
The U.S. Geological Survey’s nationwide investigation of the water resources of Afghanistan has components focused on characterizing the relationship between glaciers and Afghanistan’s water resources, determining the recent behavior of the country’s glaciers, and understanding the response of Afghanistan’s glaciers to changing climate. GIS analysis, a supervised classification, and a remote sensing assessment are being conducted to determine the number, location, size, area, aspect, and many other parameters of Afghanistan’s glaciers. At low elevations, many glaciers have already disappeared. The mid-range altitudes show the effects of complex behaviors in glaciers: debris coverage, transient water, stagnation. High-elevation glaciers are not significantly affected at this time. In the Karakorum Range, the dynamics are different and 65 percent of the glaciers are advancing. In northeast Afghanistan, water delivery is affected by glacial runoff. There is a large mobile water component that may be increasing with increasing temperatures, which gives potential for flooding. The amount of glacial melt compared with snowfall and rain in the area is still being determined. In this area, snow is significant, but it is hard to quantify.
Richard Matthew, University of California, Irvine
It is very difficult to model how changes in the environment affect political stability. There is agreement that the environment is a security issue, and the prevailing opinion is that climate change will lead to more resource conflicts. There is much uncertainty, however, and resource scarcity could lead to more cooperation rather than conflict. It can also spark ingenuity Certain countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change. In this region, population is growing, resources are becoming scarce, and many of the states are high on the Failed State Index, a measure of how readily a government can provide services. Thus, though climate change will undoubtedly affect this region, it is difficult to say whether it is the issue that will push these systems over a threshold, or be a small player in an otherwise stressed system. Nonetheless, the implications are large and varied (terrorism, development factors, water scarcity agricultural failure, etc.). In many South Asian countries, problems are exacerbated by climate change, but many problems are associated with misused resources and ignoring of environmental regulations; poor strategies and decisions can create vulnerabilities that climate change may magnify.
Strategic Options for Addressing Climate
Change and Water Security Risks in Afghanistan
Sanjay Pahuja, World Bank
In Afghanistan, rapid growth in the Kabul area means demand growth for household and hydropower and industrial water uses. Hydropower development is only 5 to 10 percent of its potential, but years of conflict have left the power grids severely damaged. The growth of the mining industry is raising demand for water. Only 4 to 5 percent of agricultural land is irrigated, although the majority of Afghans depend upon agriculture. Even modest improvements in regional water management and infrastructure can lead to expansions in both energy and food production. International agreements exist for five river basins, but changing conditions will likely test them. Ongoing political and military conflict hinders improvement, but many water management projects (most of them large scale) are under consideration
by international aid donors. Insufficient water for allocation, inadequate financing, and limited human resources have resulted in stagnation in preparation and implementation. A systemwide perspective is critically needed, to include both large-scale and small-scale efforts, but Afghanistan, as a “least developed country” has little capacity to take this perspective.
Bangladesh: Climate Risk and Vulnerabilities
Ahsan Uddin Ahmed, Centre for Global Change
Bangladesh has special water-related vulnerabilities, including a high population density in an area vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise, a dependence on upstream countries for water supply, and important regional water quality challenges arising from local groundwater contaminated by natural and human contaminants. Social conditions are improving, including education (e.g., increasing female enrollment in primary and secondary schools, and increasing literacy among farmers), skills enhancement, and an economy growing at about 6 percent annually. Food security is an issue for the growing population, although progress has been made in developing agricultural products to defy climate variability and change.
Bhutan: Climate Risk and Vulnerabilities
Thinley Namgyel, National Environment Commission, Bhutan
Bhutan has plenty of water at the national level but experiences local and seasonal shortages. Hydro-power accounts for 21 percent of its GDP and almost 100 percent of its electricity; Bhutan’s goal is to install 10,000 MW by 2020 against the 1,480 MW in 2011. This ambitious target is unlikely to be met because of controversy over large-scale hydro development, financial constraints, and uncertainties about future hydrological conditions. Seasonal differences result in winter shortages, and competition for water from small water sources often leads to conflicts between communities during the irrigation season. Because of its upstream location, Bhutan is especially vulnerable to climate changes that increase seasonal flood risks, including flash floods during the monsoon season, with damage to infrastructure, property, and lives. Bhutan also faces risks associated with glacial lake outburst floods, with 25 of its 1,674 glacial lakes at risk for floods. Bhutan has limited resources to deal with these issues; it is designated as a “least developed country,” small, landlocked, in debt, and with only a nascent private sector. Parliamentary democracy was introduced in Bhutan only in 2008.
China: Climate Risk and Vulnerabilities
Jennifer Turner, Woodrow Wilson Center
China’s water-related issues have the potential to undermine its growth. Seventy percent of its energy comes from coal mines located largely in the north, and coal uses 20 percent of the country’s water. China sees its priorities as developing new supply rather than improving water management. This includes major efforts to move water from the southern watersheds to the north and developing and diverting waters from upstream basins without regard for downstream impacts. China may be building a significant number of new large dams in the coming years, but some existing dams are already underutilized because of diminished water supply. China has not been a central participant in regional water commissions or planning activities, preferring to pursue water development without consultation with other affected nations. Other challenges include territorial conflicts over shared watersheds such as the Sichuan Glacier dispute with India.
Border Dispute in the Himalayan Region
Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University, Bloomington
The Sino-Indian border along the Himalayas remains one of the most militarized areas of the world. The militarization of this region stems from an unresolved border dispute that has its origins in British colonial border policies from the 19th century. Despite multiple bilateral negotiations on the border dispute, little progress has been made toward its resolution. In recent years, China has expanded the scope of its claims along portions of the Sino-Indian border. Not surprisingly, this has contributed to greater troop concentrations resulting in greater environmental stresses
to the area. Finally, the dispute may take on even greater salience as China plans to divert water and construct hydroelectric stations in Tibet.
Toad’s Eye Perspective: The Missing Element
in Climate Change Debates
Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and Water Conservation Foundation
Nepal’s 10-year Maoist insurrection ended in 2007, but its effects linger in the inability of the government to write a constitution and in its weak capacity to enact or implement policies and programs. Like Afghanistan and Bhutan, it is designated as a “least developed country.” There are planned large-scale dams, but small-scale, community-centered water management would be preferable to top-down planned projects and might provide greater flexibility in the face of climate change. The country has an active mountain-climbing and tourism industry (although agriculture dominates the economy), with glaciers being a strong attraction in the high-mountain landscapes.
Pakistan: Climate Risk and Vulnerabilities
David Archer, JBA Consulting
The viability of Pakistan’s economy depends on the state of the Indus River. Apart from the narrow ribbon of green along the Himalayan range, Pakistan is largely desert and semidesert. As a predominantly agricultural economy it depends on the Indus River for irrigation of both food and cash crops. In a normal year, about 75 percent of the river inflow is diverted, and in a drought year only a trickle of freshwater reaches the Indian Ocean. The Indus Basin Irrigation System irrigates 80 percent of Pakistan’s approximately 22 million hectares of farmland. Hence changes in flow in the Indus River arising from climate change or other causes, or in the balance between water supply and demand (mainly for irrigation) send a ripple effect through the entire Pakistan economy and have implications for food security poverty and prosperity and ultimately for personal and state security.