Remotely Sensed Rain and Snowfall in the Himalaya

  • Taylor Smith
  • Bodo BookhagenEmail author


Waters sourced in the Himalaya flow through the Ganges and Indus basins, which are some of the most densely populated regions of the world. Both communities in the mountains and those downstream are highly dependent on the volume and consistency of runoff. A growing body of research has pointed towards changes in the timing, volume, and spatial distribution of precipitation in the region over the past decades, but our understanding of the magnitude and direction of these trends is limited by lack of in-situ data availability, complex terrain, and poor process understanding.

Remote sensing provides long-term and spatially-extensive climate data over the entire Himalayan region, and allows for detailed analysis of large-scale environmental change. Here we use several complimentary datasets to explore recent changes in both liquid and solid precipitation, and the knock-on impacts on the Himalayan cryosphere. We find that the spatial and temporal distribution of water resources has shifted, with potentially significant consequences for downstream water provision. In particular, we find that there has been less water stored in snowpack over the past decades, and that the timing of the snowmelt season has shifted earlier in the year. The length of the snowmelt season has also been compressed in much of the region. Rainfall trends can also be detected in the time series; however, multi-annual oscillations and intra-seasonal variations make it difficult to obtain statistically significant trends. Continued exploration of these time series and their associated trends will be essential for understanding hydro-meteorologic processes and improving future regional water planning.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of GeosciencesUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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