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