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Trends for snow cover and river flows in the Pamirs (Central Asia)

Author(s): P. Chevallier | B. Pouyaud | M. Mojaïsky | M. Bolgov | O. Olsson | M. Bauer | J. Froebrich

Journal: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions
ISSN 1812-2108

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 29;
Date: 2012;
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In the often discussed Aral Sea basin (Central Asia), water availability depends essentially on the high mountains located in its eastern part, especially from the Pamir Alay Range where the Vakhsh and Pyandj Rivers, the main tributaries of the Amu Darya River, flow. In this region, the cryosphere, glaciers, and snow cover significantly impact the water cycle and the flow regime, which could be deeply modified by climate change. The present study, part of a project funded by the EU FP6, analyzes the hydrological situation in six benchmark basins covering areas between 1800 and 8400 km2, essentially located in Tajikistan, with a variety of topographical situations, precipitation amounts, and glacierized areas. Four types of parameter are discussed: temperature, glaciers, snow cover, and river flows. Two time periods are considered: (i) a long time series ending in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union and based on field observations and data collection; (ii) a May 2000 to May 2002 interval, using scarce monitored data and satellite information to follow snow cover dynamics. The results confirm the global homogeneous trend of temperature increase in the mountain range and its impacts on the surface water regimes. Concerning the snow cover, significant differences are noted regarding the location, the elevation, the orientation and the morphology of the respective basins. Finally the expected changes in the flow river regime are regulated by the combination of the snow cover dynamics and the increasing trend of the air temperature. It confirms the high sensitivity of this region to the warming as identified by the 4rd IPCC Assessment Report.
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