Among the knowledge gaps researchers identified are a lack of accurate representations of glacier volumes, a detailed understanding of precipitation gradients in the region, and critical studies on permafrost, sublimation, glacier dynamics, black carbon and the role of debris cover.
The researchers recommend a tiered approach to address the identified gaps: Tier-1 includes an expanded observation network that places fully automatic weather stations on selected glaciers.
They also suggest developing comparison projects to examine glacier area and volumes, glacier dynamics, permafrost thaw, and snow and ice sublimation.
Meanwhile, Tier-2 recommendations implement the knowledge of these studies in detailed models of glacier hydrology to reduce the uncertainty in projections of future change.
The Himalayan-Karakoram river basins cover an area of 2.75 million sq km and have the largest irrigated area of 577,000 sq km, feeding five megacities — Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi, Kolkata and Lahore — with populations greater than 94 million, and the world’s largest installed hydropower capacity of 26,432 MW.
Azam added, “While climate change is causing rapid deglaciation and altering the river stream flows in the Himalaya-Karakoram ranges, it is also contributing to mountain hazards happening more frequently, and the greater magnitude of the latest Chamoli disaster is an argument in favour of avoiding further developments in the fragile mountains of the Himalaya.”