NRC Research: Himalayan Glaciers

Professor Wescoat served as a member of the Committee on Himalayan Glaciers, Hydrology, Climate Change, and Implications for Water Security of the Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate, part of the Division on Earth and Life Sciences of the National Research Council. The Committee authored the report Himalayan Glaciers: Climate Change, Water Resources, and Water Security.

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 region 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 hydrological 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?
The Committee addressed these questions from several perspectives: the physical geography of the region, the human geography of the region, and the environmental security of the region. The Committee also identifies additional scientific and data needs as well as possible means of adapting to changes in water security, and draws a series of conclusions.
To help inform its analyses the Committee hosted an interdisciplinary workshop in fall 2011 in Washington, D.C. The 2-day workshop included both invited presentations and extended discussion to explore the many issues that bear on streamflows, water supplies, and the problems of adaptation in the region.