Climate Dynamics

, Volume 52, Issue 1–2, pp 159–180 | Cite as

Deciphering the contrasting climatic trends between the central Himalaya and Karakoram with 36 years of WRF simulations

  • Jesse NorrisEmail author
  • Leila M. V. Carvalho
  • Charles Jones
  • Forest Cannon


Glaciers over the central Himalaya have retreated at particularly rapid rates in recent decades, while glacier mass in the Karakoram appears stable. To address the meteorological factors associated with this contrast, 36 years of Climate Forecast System Reanalyses (CFSR) are dynamically downscaled from 1979 to 2015 with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model over High Mountain Asia at convection permitting grid spacing (6.7 km). In all seasons, CFSR shows an anti-cyclonic warming trend over the majority of High Mountain Asia, but distinctive differences are observed between the central Himalaya and Karakoram in winter and summer. In winter and summer, the central Himalaya has been under the influence of an anti-cyclonic trend, which in summer the downscaling shows has reduced cloud cover, leading to significant warming and reduced snowfall in recent years. Contrastingly, the Karakoram has been near the boundary between large-scale cyclonic and anti-cyclonic trends and has not experienced significant snowfall or temperature changes in winter or summer, despite significant trends in summer of increasing cloud cover and decreasing shortwave radiation. This downscaling does not identify any trends over glaciers in closer neighboring regions to the Karakoram (e.g., Hindu Kush and the western Himalaya) where glaciers have retreated as over the central Himalaya, indicating that there are other factors driving glacier mass balance that this downscaling is unable to capture. While this study does not fully explain the Karakoram anomaly, the identified trends detail important meteorological contributions to the observed differences between central Himalaya and Karakoram glacier evolution in recent decades.



This research was supported by the Climate and Large-scale Dynamics Program, from the National Science Foundation (NSF award-AGS 1116105) and by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters under the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Program (Grant no. 13-EARTH13F-26). The CFSR data used in this research were developed by NCEP and provided by NCAR, available at ERA-Interim data were developed by ECMWF and made available through NCAR ( In-situ precipitation and temperature data were provided by PMD and WAPDA. MODIS data were obtained from High-performance computing support from Yellowstone (ark:/85065/d7wd3xhc) was provided by NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL), sponsored by the NSF. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers whose comments have greatly improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth Research InstituteUniversity of California Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of California Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  3. 3.Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of California San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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