Natural Hazards

, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 933–949 | Cite as

Monitoring cryosphere and associated flood hazards in high mountain ranges of Pakistan using remote sensing technique

  • Arshad Ashraf
  • Rakhshan Roohi
  • Rozina Naz
  • Naveed Mustafa
Original Paper


Knowledge of Himalayan cryosphere seems to be an outstanding requirement for assessment of glacier storage, water balance analysis, planning of water resources and flood hazard monitoring. A stepwise approach through mapping glaciers and glacial lakes using satellite remote sensing data and investigating potential glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) hazards was adopted for the three Hindukush, Karakoram and Himalayan (HKH) ranges of Pakistan. The findings of the study revealed 5,218 glaciers in the cryosphere of HKH ranges. The cumulative glacial cover of over 15,000 km2 contains ice reserves of about 2,738 km3. About 46 % of the Karakoram glaciers are contributing 77 % to the total glacial cover and 87 % to the cumulative ice reserves of the country. The 33 % Himalayan glaciers and 21 % Hindukush glaciers contribute only 3 and 10 % ice reserves, respectively. Among 2,420 glacial lakes identified in the three HKH ranges, 52 were classified as critical lakes that can pose GLOF hazard for the downstream communities. Most of the potential hazardous lakes lie in the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges, the monitoring of which is crucial to reduce high risk of future floods hazard in this fragile mountain ecosystem of the Himalayan region.


Cryosphere Glaciers Flood hazard Remote sensing Karakoram Himalaya 



We appreciate the technical and financial support of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and UNDP-Pakistan for undertaking this study. The database development and mapping support by members of Water Resources Research Institute, National Agricultural Research Centre, Islamabad is also gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arshad Ashraf
    • 1
  • Rakhshan Roohi
    • 1
  • Rozina Naz
    • 1
  • Naveed Mustafa
    • 1
  1. 1.Climate Change, Alternate Energy and Water Resources InstituteNational Agricultural Research CentreIslamabadPakistan

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