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Proceedings Paper

Using passive microwave data to understand spatio-temporal trends and dynamics in snow-water storage in High Mountain Asia
Author(s): Taylor Smith; Bodo Bookhagen
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Paper Abstract

High Mountain Asia provides water for more than a billion downstream users. Many catchments receive the majority of their yearly water budget in the form of snow - the vast majority of which is not monitored by sparse weather networks. We leverage passive microwave data from the SSMI series of satellites (SSMI, SSMI/S, 1987-2016), reprocessed to 3.125 km resolution, to examine trends in the volume and spatial distribution of snow-water equivalent (SWE) in the Indus Basin.

We find that the majority of the Indus has seen an increase in snow-water storage. There exists a strong elevation-trend relationship, where high-elevation zones have more positive SWE trends. Negative trends are confined to the Himalayan foreland and deeply-incised valleys which run into the Upper Indus. This implies a temperature-dependent cutoff below which precipitation increases are not translated into increased SWE. Earlier snowmelt or a higher percentage of liquid precipitation could both explain this cutoff.

Earlier work found a negative snow-water storage trend for the entire Indus catchment over the time period 1987-2009 (-4 × 10-3 mm/yr). In this study based on an additional seven years of data, the average trend reverses to 1.4 × 10-3. This implies that the decade since the mid-2000s was likely wetter, and positively impacted long-term SWE trends. This conclusion is supported by an analysis of snowmelt onset and end dates which found that while long-term trends are negative, more recent (since 2005) trends are positive (moving later in the year).

Paper Details

Date Published: 9 October 2018
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 10788, Active and Passive Microwave Remote Sensing for Environmental Monitoring II, 1078806 (9 October 2018); doi: 10.1117/12.2323827
Show Author Affiliations
Taylor Smith, Univ. Potsdam (Germany)
Bodo Bookhagen, Univ. Potsdam (Germany)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10788:
Active and Passive Microwave Remote Sensing for Environmental Monitoring II
Fabio Bovenga; Claudia Notarnicola; Nazzareno Pierdicca; Emanuele Santi, Editor(s)

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