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Topographic controls on spatio-temporal snow cover distribution in Northwest Himalaya

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The present study deals with spatio-temporal snow cover distribution in Northwest Himalaya (NWH) in a discourse on regional topography and prevalent climatology. Snow cover variation during 2001–2012 in NWH and eight major river basins was examined using MODIS data on board the Terra satellite. Slope match topographic correction was applied to eliminate the differential illumination effect on satellite imagery. The impact of cloud cover was removed by generating a 10-day maximum snow cover product. Annual and seasonal analysis shows a decreasing trend in snow cover area (SCA) over the entire NWH. Maximal SCA was observed in the windward river basins of the Lower and the Middle Himalayan zones and in the highly glaciated Shyok river basin of the Upper Himalaya. Monthly snow cover duration (SCD) maps revealed the effect of longitudinal variation as well as the strong influence of regional climatology and topography. The relationship of SCA with altitude and aspect was studied in all the river basins of NWH. The study shows a linear increment of SCA/D with increasing respect to elevation in all river basins. The maximum rate of SCA/D change with elevation was observed in the Jhelum river basin. In the Middle Himalayan Zone, an effect of basin orientation in regard to elevation was observed. Mean annual SCA at altitudes of up to 4500┬ám shows a decreasing trend. Seasonal analysis of aspect-wise snow cover shows that southern slopes have lower SCA during winter months. The difference in SCA between northern and southern slopes is even higher in summer and the monsoon period.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Chandigarh, 160036, India 2: Department of Natural Resources, TERI University, New Delhi, 110070, India

Publication date: May 3, 2014

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