Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
26 Oct 2016
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper is under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).
Climate sensitivity of snow water equivalent and snowmelt runoff in a Himalayan catchment
Emmy E. Stigter1, Niko Wanders2, Tuomo M. Saloranta3, Joseph M. Shea4, Marc F.P. Bierkens1,5, and Walter W. Immerzeel1 1Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht Universi ty, The Netherlands
2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, United States
3Norwegian water resources and energy directorate (NVE), Oslo, Norway
4International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal
5Deltares, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Abstract. Snow is an important component of water storage in the Himalayas. Previous snowmelt studies in the Himalayas have predominantly relied on remotely sensed snow cover. However this provides no information on the actual amount of water stored in a snowpack i.e. the snow water equivalent (SWE). Therefore, in this study remotely sensed snow cover was combined with in situ meteorological observations and a modified version of the seNorge snow model to estimate climate sensitivity of SWE and snowmelt runoff in the Langtang catchment in Nepal. Landsat 8 and MOD10A2 snow cover maps were validated with in situ snow cover observations provided by surface temperature and snow depth measurements resulting in classification accuracies of 85.7 % and 83.1 % respectively. Optimal model parameter values were obtained through data assimilation of MOD10A2 snow maps and snow depth measurements using an Ensemble Kalman filter. The approach of modelling snow depth in a Kalman filter framework allows for data-constrained estimation of SWE rather than snow cover alone and this has great potential for future studies in the Himalayas. Climate sensitivity tests with the optimized snow model show a strong decrease in SWE in the valley with increasing temperature. However, at high elevation a decrease in SWE is (partly) compensated by an increase in precipitation, which emphasizes the need for accurate predictions on the changes in the spatial distribution of precipitation along with changes in temperature. Finally the climate sensitivity study revealed that snowmelt runoff increases in winter and early melt season (December to May) and decreases during the late melt season (June to September) as a result of the earlier onset of snowmelt due to increasing temperature.

Citation: Stigter, E. E., Wanders, N., Saloranta, T. M., Shea, J. M., Bierkens, M. F. P., and Immerzeel, W. W.: Climate sensitivity of snow water equivalent and snowmelt runoff in a Himalayan catchment, The Cryosphere Discuss., doi:10.5194/tc-2016-216, in review, 2016.
Emmy E. Stigter et al.
Emmy E. Stigter et al.
Emmy E. Stigter et al.


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