Climate projections for glacier change modelling over the Himalayas

Martin W Jury, Thomas Mendlik, Satyanarayana Tani, Heimo Truhetz, Douglas Maraun, Walter W Immerzeel, Lutz Arthur F

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Abstract

Glaciers are of key importance to freshwater supplies in the Himalayan region. Their growth or decline is among other factors determined by an interaction of 2‐m air temperature (TAS) and precipitation rate (PR) and thereof derived positive degree days (PDD) and snow and ice accumulation (SAC). To investigate determining factors in climate projections, we use a model ensemble consisting of 36 CMIP5 general circulation models (GCMs) and 13 regional climate models (RCMs) of two Asian CORDEX domains for two different representative concentration pathways (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). First, we downsize the ensemble in respect to the models' ability to correctly reproduce dominant circulation patterns (i.e., the Indian summer monsoon [ISM] and western disturbances [WDs]) as well as elevation‐dependent trend signals in winter. Within this evaluation, a newly produced data set for the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra catchments is used as observational data. The reanalyses WFDEI, ERA‐Interim, NCEP/NCAR and JRA‐55 are used to further account for observational uncertainty. In a next step, remaining TAS and PR data are bias corrected applying a new bias adjustment method, scale distribution mapping, and subsequently PDD and SAC computed. Finally, we identify and quantify projected climate change effects. Until the end of the century, the ensemble indicates a rise of PDD, especially during summer and for lower altitudes. Also TAS is rising, though the highest increases are shown for higher altitudes and between December and April (DJFMA). PRs connected to the ISM are projected to robustly increase, while signals for PR changes during DJFMA show a higher level of uncertainty and spatial heterogeneity. However, a robust decline in solid precipitation is projected over our research domain, with the exception of a small area in the high mountain Indus catchment where no clear signal emerges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1738-1754
JournalThe International Journal of Climatology
Volume40
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2020

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Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems

Cite this

Jury, M. W., Mendlik, T., Tani, S., Truhetz, H., Maraun, D., Immerzeel, W. W., & Arthur F, L. (2020). Climate projections for glacier change modelling over the Himalayas. The International Journal of Climatology, 40(3), 1738-1754.