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Future water availability from the western Karakoram under representative concentration pathways as simulated by CORDEX South Asia

Abstract

Employing a fully distributed hydrological model of SPHY (spatial processes in hydrology), we assessed the future water availability from a highly glacierized basin of Hunza in the western Karakoram under plausible climates as projected by the representative concentration pathways (RCPs). We successfully calibrate and validate the SPHY model for the periods 1994–1997 and 1997–2000 respectively using three high-altitude representative meteorological stations from the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), Pakistan. Then, we run the model for near- (2007–2036), mid- (2037–2066), and far-future (2067–2096) climate projections under three different RCP scenario, i.e., RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5. Each scenario includes four high-resolution (~ 50 km) climate experiments that are obtained from dynamically downscaling the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) experiments under the framework of the Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiments (CORDEX) for South Asia. The SPHY model projects a substantial increase in the ensemble mean discharges throughout the 21st century under all RCP scenarios. Such an increase is dominated by the enhanced glacier melt contribution under the high warming scenario of RCP8.5. Besides featuring a declining trend, snowmelt contribution will also remain higher than that of the historical period throughout the 21st century and under all RCPs. Our flow duration curve analysis suggests that high and median flows are projected to increase while low flows are projected to decrease in the future. These findings provide invaluable insights into the uncertainty spectrum of the water availability from the western Karakoram across envisaged future climates, which will be supportive in better managing the downstream water resources.

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Acknowledgments

This study was a part of the master research work of the first author conducted at the Institute of Space Technology (IST), Islamabad. The authors are grateful to Future Water Netherland for providing the SPHY model in the public domain. The German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ) is acknowledged for providing the CORDEX South Asia dataset at Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF) node. Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) Pakistan is also acknowledged for providing the daily observed datasets of temperature, precipitation, and streamflow for the Hunza Basin.

Funding

Shabeh ul Hasson thanks the support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) through the Cluster of Excellence “CliSAP” (EXC177), and under Germany’s Excellence Strategy –EXC2037 “CLICCS - Climate, Climatic Change, and Society” –Project Number: 390683824, contribution to the Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN) of Universität Hamburg.

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Fatima, E., Hassan, M., Hasson, S. et al. Future water availability from the western Karakoram under representative concentration pathways as simulated by CORDEX South Asia. Theor Appl Climatol 141, 1093–1108 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-020-03261-w

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