Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics

, Volume 128, Issue 6, pp 793–811 | Cite as

Comparative assessment of spatiotemporal snow cover changes and hydrological behavior of the Gilgit, Astore and Hunza River basins (Hindukush–Karakoram–Himalaya region, Pakistan)

  • Adnan Ahmad Tahir
  • Jan Franklin Adamowski
  • Pierre Chevallier
  • Ayaz Ul Haq
  • Silvia Terzago
Original Paper


The Upper Indus Basin (UIB), situated in the Himalaya–Karakoram–Hindukush (HKH) mountain ranges, is the major contributor to the supply of water for irrigation in Pakistan. Improved management of downstream water resources requires studying and comparing spatiotemporal changes in the snow cover and hydrological behavior of the river basins located in the HKH region. This study explored in detail the recent changes that have occurred in the Gilgit River basin (12,656 km2; western sub-basin of UIB), which is characterized by a mean catchment elevation of 4250 m above sea level (m ASL). The basin’s snow cover was monitored through the snow products provided by the MODIS satellite sensor, while analysis of its hydrological regime was supported by hydrological and climatic data recorded at different altitudes. The Gilgit basin findings were compared to those previously obtained for the lower-altitude Astore basin (mean catchment elevation = 4100 m ASL) and the higher-altitude Hunza basin (mean catchment elevation = 4650 m ASL). These three catchments were selected because of their different glacier coverage, contrasting area distribution at high altitudes and significant impact on the Upper Indus River flow. Almost 7, 5 and 33 % of the area of the Gilgit, Astore and Hunza basins, respectively, are situated above 5000 m ASL, and approximately 8, 6 and 25 %, respectively, are covered by glaciers. The UIB region was found to follow a stable or slightly increasing trend in snow coverage and had a discharge dominated by snow and glacier melt in its western (Hindukush–Karakoram), southern (Western-Himalaya) and northern (Central-Karakoram) sub-basins.



The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan financially supported this research work. This financial support is gratefully acknowledged and appreciated. The authors extend their thanks to the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) for contributing their hydrological and meteorological data, respectively. The authors also wish to thank NASA and Japan’s Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) for providing ASTER GDEM. Partial funding for this research was provided by an NSERC Discovery Grant, and a CFI grant, held by Jan Adamowski. The authors are grateful to Yves Arnaud, IRD scientist at the LTHE, Grenoble, France, for helping in the methodology of the MOD10A2 treatments. Special thanks to Mr. Danial Hashmi of WAPDA for providing the corrected coordinates of the high-altitude weather stations.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adnan Ahmad Tahir
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan Franklin Adamowski
    • 3
  • Pierre Chevallier
    • 4
  • Ayaz Ul Haq
    • 1
  • Silvia Terzago
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesCOMSATS Institute of Information TechnologyAbbottabadPakistan
  2. 2.Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, Faculty of Geosciences and EnvironmentUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Bioresource EngineeringMcGill UniversitySte Anne de BellevueCanada
  4. 4.Université de Montpellier, Laboratoire Hydrosciences (CNRS, IRD, Université de Montpellier)MontpellierFrance
  5. 5.Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC)National Research CouncilTurinItaly

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