Influence of mid-latitude circulation on upper Indus basin precipitation: the explicit role of irrigation

Abstract

Since much of the flow of the Indus River originates in the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush Mountains, an understanding of weather characteristics leading to precipitation over the region is essential for water resources management. This study examines the influence of upper level mid-latitude circulation on the summer precipitation over upper Indus basin (UIB). Using reanalysis data, a geopotential height index (GH) is defined at 200 hPa over central Asia, which has a significant correlation with the precipitation over UIB. GH has also shown significant correlation with the heat low (over Iran and Afghanistan and adjoining Pakistan), easterly shear of zonal winds (associated with central Asian high) and evapotranspiration (over UIB). It is argued that the geopotential height index has the potential to serve as a precursor for the precipitation over UIB. In order to assess the influence of irrigation on precipitation over UIB, a simplified irrigation scheme has been developed and applied to the regional climate model REMO. It has been shown that both versions of REMO (with and without irrigation) show significant correlations of GH with easterly wind shear and heat low. However contrary to reanalysis and the REMO version with irrigation, the REMO version without irrigation does not show any correlation between GH index and evapotranspiration as well as between geopotential height and precipitation over UIB, which is further confirmed by the quantitative analysis of extreme precipitation events over UIB. It is concluded that although atmospheric moisture over coastal Arabian sea region, triggered by wind shear and advected northward due to heat low, also contribute to the UIB precipitation. However for the availability of necessary moisture for precipitation over UIB, the major role is played by the evapotranspiration of water from irrigation. From the results it may also be inferred that the representation of irrigated water in climate models is unavoidable for studying the impact of global warming over the region.

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Correspondence to Fahad Saeed.

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Saeed, F., Hagemann, S., Saeed, S. et al. Influence of mid-latitude circulation on upper Indus basin precipitation: the explicit role of irrigation. Clim Dyn 40, 21–38 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-012-1480-3

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Keywords

  • Irrigation
  • Indus basin
  • Mid-latitude circulation
  • South Asian summer monsoon
  • REMO