Himalayan Glaciers: Climate Change, Water Resources, and Water Security

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The glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region are among the largest and most spectacular in the world. Although there is some scientific knowledge and information about the state of the glaciers of the HKH region, with implications for future water supplies, there is also significant uncertainty. Concern has been heightened by several highly visible pronouncements which upon examination proved to be highly qualitative, local in scale, or to lack any credible scientific basis. This report, prepared by a Committee appointed by the National Research Council, seeks to describe and analyze the scientific  knowledge about the glaciers of the region, their impact on regional waterscape, and likely impacts of changes in the glaciers on the population of South Asia. More specifically, the Committee addressed the following questions:

  • How sensitive are the Himalayan glaciers to climate and other environmental
    factors?
  • What are the potential impacts of changes in climate and glaciers on the timing
    and volume of river flows in the regions and what are the likely implications for
    water supplies and extreme climatic events such as floods?
  • What water management systems are in place to help adapt to changes in regional
    hydrologic systems and how might those systems be strengthened?
  • What are the main vulnerabilities of downstream populations to changes in water
    supplies, what are the prospects for conflict and/or cooperation, and what are the
    implications for national security?
Resource Type: 
Technical reports