Melting Water Towers: Analyzing the Impact of Climate Change on Himalayan Glaciology and South Asian Agroeconomy

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Name: Srushti Chaudhari
Major: Geology
Minor: Economics
Advisor: Dr. Shelley Judge

The glaciers in the Himalayan Range contribute to the discharge of major South Asian rivers such as the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra rivers. Rising temperatures and unpredictable precipitation patterns in the Himalayan region as a result of climate change influence this rate of glacial melt. Since these rivers flow across historically disputed political boundaries in South Asia, the changes in the cryosphere due to climate change will impact the already fragile political stability of the region. This study uses Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques to track glacial melt trends in the Himalayan region. In addition to glacier melt, temperature and precipitation trends are also visualized to depict the relationship between the two in the Indus-Ganges-Brahmaputra watersheds. The results show that the mass balance of the glaciers has decreased from -0.21 during 1975-2000 to -0.41 during 2000-2016, signifying that more glaciers in the region are melting, and they are melting at a faster rate. Concurrently, the temperature and fluctuations in temperature have been increasing in the downstream regions while the precipitation shows an overall decline. This has socio-economic and political implications as the communities that lie downstream are dependent on the river discharge for agricultural, industrial, or municipal needs. Furthermore, since these are largely agriculture dependent economies, these changes negatively affect the livelihoods of a large part of the population. South Asian countries thus face the daunting task of navigating water scarcity in the face of climate change and rising water demands.

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Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.

3 responses to “Melting Water Towers: Analyzing the Impact of Climate Change on Himalayan Glaciology and South Asian Agroeconomy”

  1. Bambi Vargo says:

    Hi, Shrushti, My daughter Lauren is a COW grad (’13) from the Dept. of Geology, and Dr. Wiles was her advisor. She has been in New Zealand for the past 5-1/2 years where she completed her Ph.D. on the glaciers of the South Island of New Zealand. She studied how to measure glacial melt, how much have the glaciers melted, and what has caused the melt. You two have much in common with your research. If you would like to get in touch with her, please email me privately, and I will give you her email. Congratulations on your research!

  2. Caitlyn Denes says:

    Wow, Shrushti! This is awesome work! Congratulations!

  3. Tracy Cosgriff says:

    A very cool project, Shrushti! Congratulations on this fabulous conclusion to your senior year!