EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Combining high resolution atmospheric simulations and land-surface modelling to understand high elevation snow processes in an Himalayan catchment

Achille Jouberton1,2, Yota Sato3, Akihiro Hashimoto4, Masashi Niwano4, Thomas E. Shaw1, Evan S. Miles1, Pascal Buri1, Stefan Fugger1,2, Michael McCarthy1, Koji Fujita3, and Francesca Pellicciotti1,5
Achille Jouberton et al.
  • 1Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 3Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan
  • 4Meteorological Research Institute, Japan Meteorological Agency, Tsukuba, Japan
  • 5Department of Geography, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK

Glaciers are key components of the Asian water towers and provide water to large downstream communities for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses. In the Nepal Himalaya, the Indian Summer Monsoon dominates climate, and results in a complex meteorology and simultaneous accumulation and ablation that complicate the quantification of snow processes. Assessing solid precipitation input, especially in the upper accumulation area (> 6000 m a.s.l.), remains key to understanding recent mass losses. Catchment-scale glacio-hydrological modelling in the Himalaya has to date mostly relied on temperature-index or intermediate-complexity enhanced temperature-index methods, but recent studies have shown that such approaches can lead to inaccurate amounts of melt, especially at high elevations where refreezing, sublimation and avalanches influence the snow depth variability. The Trakarding–Trambau Glacier system experienced significant mass loss over the last decades, and recent field measurements of meteorology and glacier change present the opportunity to examine these problems with physically-based and spatially-resolved atmospheric and glacio-hydrological modelling.

We combine a novel non-hydrostatic atmospheric model (NHM; atmospheric core of the cryosphere-oriented regional climate model NHM-SMAP) and an advanced land surface model at cloud-permitting hyper-resolution (~ 100 m) to explore the role of snow processes in the water balance of this glacierized catchment. We force the land-surface model of the catchment with dynamically downscaled, hourly outputs from  NHM for the 2018-2019 hydrological year. We evaluate the NHM output using available in-situ meteorological observations  and evaluate the land surface model skills and process representation with in-situ mass balance observations, remotely sensed surface elevation change and snow cover. Coupling of the two types of models is unprecedented in the Himalaya, and holds promise to reveal processes that cannot be explicitly assessed by simpler models or forcing data. We investigate the contribution of sublimation and precipitation partition to the glacier mass balance and catchment runoff, and analyze the difference in mass balance and its drivers between the debris-covered and debris free-glaciers. To place this very novel type of simulations into the context of current research, we compare our NHM-forced simulations with simulations forced by station data and ERA5-Land reanalysis.  Finally, we evaluate the effect of spatial resolution (50 m, 100 m, 200 m) on model performance and process representation. 

Our results highlight the potential of sophisticated models based on the calculations of energy and mass fluxes to unravel the complex processes that shape the response of Himalayan catchments, and provide an assessment of their skills as a function of spatial resolution.

How to cite: Jouberton, A., Sato, Y., Hashimoto, A., Niwano, M., Shaw, T. E., Miles, E. S., Buri, P., Fugger, S., McCarthy, M., Fujita, K., and Pellicciotti, F.: Combining high resolution atmospheric simulations and land-surface modelling to understand high elevation snow processes in an Himalayan catchment, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8896,, 2022.


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