News & Events

PhD defense - Alana Wilson

Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 8:00AM - 10:00AM


Alana Wilson


SEEL room 303


Glaciers of High Asia: Water resources, water security, and scientific capacity building


The arc of High Mountain Asia (HMA) stretches for more than 4,000 km and is home to a large proportion of the world’s mid-latitude freshwater snow and ice resources.  These resources contribute to domestic water supplies, irrigation, and hydropower generation, giving water a profound role in livelihoods and development in the region.  There is associated uncertainty in the vulnerability of HMA water resources to climate change with respect to how the timing and volume of snowmelt and glacier melt may change as global air temperatures rise.

To better address questions of vulnerability, this work pursues different methods for identifying how much melt is sourced from snow (a renewable water resource) and how much is sourced from glacier ice (a non-renewable water resource) while also exploring the role groundwater storage plays in alpine hydrology.  Using the Langtang River Basin of Nepal as a case study, independent approaches are applied to clarify water vulnerability questions via hydrochemistry-based hydrograph separation mixing models and remote sensing-based melt modeling.

Based on five years of synoptic water chemistry sampling in the basin, End Member Mixing Analysis (EMMA) and Bayesian Monte Carlo (BMC) hydrochemistry mixing model methods agree that about one-fifth of the Upper Langtang Basin’s annual discharge is comprised of groundwater with a residence time of greater than one year.  Two different temperature index melt models driven by both station data and remote sensing data fill out a high temporal resolution picture of the catchment’s melt regime.

Conducted under the auspices of the USAID funded CHARIS project (Contribution to High Asia Runoff from Ice and Snow), the scientific capacity-building achievements of the five-year project are documented as well.  Surveys and interviews with research partners from 8 countries of HMA are utilized to offer insight into how international collaborations can foster skill development and support local scientists in playing a more prominent role in untangling pressing questions about the cryosphere and hydrology of HMA.

Together the components of this research offer both scientific and social contributions to mitigating water stress in downstream areas fed by the glaciers of High Asia.