The current state and future fate of the 'High Asian water towers' (i.e., freshwater reservoirs at high elevations) are of central importance for water, food, and power supply of densely populated regions in south, east, and central Asia. In addition to the highly seasonal summer rainfall, winter precipitation is important for snowmelt and discharge in the pre-monsoon season. Runoff from snow is especially significant in the central Asian and western Himalayan regions, where hundreds of millions of people reside.

This project aims to advance our current understanding of climate processes on regional-to-continental scales and how they affect the water balance in the High Asia Mountains. It focuses on multiannual-to-decadal variations in the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) and winter western disturbances (WD) and their impacts on rainfall, snow and runoff variability in High Asia. The investigators will: 1) characterize and investigate multi-annual-to-decadal variations in the ISM and WD and their regional impacts on the surface water budget, 2) examine the spatiotemporal variability of the surface water budget including changes in rainfall and snow and their relative roles in driving runoff variations in High Asia, and 3) develop case studies to investigate changes in ISM and WD and their influences on the long-term variability of snow and associated runoff in the High Asia Mountains.

The broader impacts of this project involve scientific and educational components. This work will characterize and analyze the physical and dynamical processes associated with multi-annual-to-decadal variations in the Indian Summer Monsoon, winter western disturbances, rain, snowfall and surface runoff in the High Asia Mountains. It will produce unique observational and modeling data and validation results that will be available to the climate, hydrology, and geomorphology research community. Further understanding of the physical processes associated with rain, snow, glacial and snowmelt waters in the High Asia will bring significant benefits for society. The nature of this problem requires scientific expertise and educational training in different disciplines: meteorology, hydrology, and geomorphology. The project will support and involve two Ph.D. graduate students and broaden graduate classes in the Department of Geography at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS)
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Anjuli S. Bamzai
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University of California Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
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