Hydrology of the Cold-Arid Himalaya

  • Renoj J. Thayyen


Hydrological characteristics of the Cold-arid trans-Himalayan region is least known due to lack of studies in the region. Hydrology of a region having around 60 mm of mean annual precipitation can be thought as a paradox. But the area have numerous glaciers constituting more than 75% of the Indian glacier resource and significant snow cover area mainly constrained over the top of the mountain range. These glaciers and snow sustain the livelihood of immediate lowland of arid valley bottom and contribute to the flow of Indus and its major tributaries like Shyok and Zanskar. These big rivers sustain livelihood of millions further downstream. Along with snow and glaciers; large extent of permafrost areas makes the hydrology of the cold-arid regions unique as compared to other regions of Indian Himalaya. Present study focus on the Ladakh range of the cold-arid system. Small glaciers with <1 km2 area is characteristic of the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges. Discharge in the stream reach between glacier and foothill is restricted around 43% days as the mountain reach of the stream freezes in winter. Summer discharge show significant reduction during the lean snow years when ground ice melt component probably contributing to the stream flow. Steep precipitation and temperature gradients are another key feature of the cold-arid system. The temperature gradient during summer months surpasses 9.8 K/km and play a key role in sustaining the mountain cryospheric system in the region. Water related disasters are also very common in the area and have varied genesis such as Cloudburst, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, Landslide Dam Outburst Flood and glacial surge dam outburst floods. More studies are imperative to comprehend the hydrology of this area in a better way. Mass and Energy balance of bigger glaciers, Permafrost thaw modeling, Groundwater dynamics and recharge areas and climate modeling at valley- ridge scale are some of the key topic to be pursued in greater details in future.


Himalaya Cold-arid Ladakh Hydrology Indus 



Sincere thanks to Dr. Sharad K. Jain, Director, NIH and Dr. Sanjay K. Jain, Head, WRS Division for their constant support and encouragement. Financial assistance for the Ladakh Glacier project from SERB, DST (No.SR/DGH/PK-1/2009) and NIH, Roorkee is duly acknowledged.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renoj J. Thayyen
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute of HydrologyRoorkeeIndia

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