Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 87–101 | Cite as

Coupling a glacier melt model to the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model for hydrological modeling in north-western China

  • Qiudong Zhao
  • Baisheng Ye
  • Yongjian Ding
  • Shiqiang Zhang
  • Shuhua Yi
  • Jian Wang
  • Donghui Shangguan
  • Chuancheng Zhao
  • Haidong Han
Original Article


For the sustainable utilization of rivers in the mid and downstream regions, it is essential that land surface hydrological processes are quantified in high cold mountains regions, as it is in these regions where most of the larger rivers in China acquire their headstreams. Glaciers are one of the most important water resources of north-west China. However, they are seldom explicitly considered within hydrological models, and climate-change effects on glaciers, permafrost and snow cover will have increasingly important consequences for runoff. In this study, an energy-balance ice-melt model was integrated within the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) macroscale hydrological model. The extended VIC model was applied to simulate the hydrological processes in the Aksu River basin, a large mountainous and glaciered catchment in north-west China. The runoff components and their response to climate change were analyzed based on the simulated and observed data. The model showed an acceptable performance, and achieved an efficiency coefficient R 2 ≈ 0.8 for the complete simulation period. The results indicate that a large proportion of the catchment runoff is derived from ice meltwater and snowmelt water. In addition, over the last 38 years, rising temperature caused an extension in the snow/ice melting period and a reduction in the seasonality signal of runoff. Due to teh increased precipitation runoff, the Aksu catchment annual runoff had a positive trend, increasing by about 40.00 × 106 m3 per year, or 25.7 %.


Energy-balance glacier melt model Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) macroscale hydrologic model Aksu River basin Hydrological modeling 



The work was supported by a grant from the Global Change Research Program of China (2010CB951404), the China National Natural Science Foundation (Grants Nos. 41030527, 41130641, 41130368 and 41001039) and the Foundation for Excellent Youth Scholars of CAREERI, CAS ( Grant No. 51Y251A61). We gratefully acknowledge the insightful comments of two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qiudong Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Baisheng Ye
    • 2
  • Yongjian Ding
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shiqiang Zhang
    • 2
  • Shuhua Yi
    • 2
  • Jian Wang
    • 1
  • Donghui Shangguan
    • 2
  • Chuancheng Zhao
    • 1
  • Haidong Han
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Hydrology and Water-Land Resource in Cold and Arid Regions, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.The State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina

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