Meteorological impacts of a novel debris-covered glacier category in a regional climate model across a Himalayan catchment

Many of the glaciers in the Nepalese Himalaya are partially covered in a layer of loose rock known as debris cover. In the Dudh Koshi River Basin, Nepal, approximately 25% of glaciers are debris‐covered. Debris‐covered glaciers have been shown to have a substantial impact on near‐surface meteorological variables and the surface energy balance, in comparison to clean‐ice glaciers. The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is often used for high‐resolution weather and climate modelling, however representation of debris‐covered glaciers is not included in the standard land cover and soil categories. Here we include a simple representation of thick debris‐covered glaciers in the WRF model, and investigate the impact on the near‐surface atmosphere over the Dudh Koshi River Basin for July 2013. Inclusion of this new category is found to improve the model representation of near‐surface temperature and relative humidity, in comparison with a simulation using the default category of clean‐ice glaciers, when compared to observations. The addition of the new debris‐cover category in the model warms the near‐surface air over the debris‐covered portion of the glacier, and the wind continues further up the valley, compared to the simulation using clean‐ice. This has consequent effects on water vapour and column‐integrated total water path, over both the portions of the glacier with and without debris cover. Correctly simulating meteorological variables such as these is vital for accurate precipitation forecasts over glacierized regions, and therefore estimating future glacier melt and river runoff in the Himalaya. These results highlight the need for debris cover to be included in high‐resolution regional climate models over debris‐covered glaciers.


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Authors: Potter, Emily R. ORCIDORCID record for Emily R. Potter, Orr, Andrew ORCIDORCID record for Andrew Orr, Willis, Ian C., Bannister, Daniel ORCIDORCID record for Daniel Bannister, Wagnon, Patrick

On this site: Andrew Orr, Emily Potter
1 March, 2021
Atmospheric Science Letters / 22
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