An integrated modeling system for estimating glacier and snow melt driven streamflow from remote sensing and earth system data products in the Himalayas

M. E. Brown*, A. E. Racoviteanu, D. G. Tarboton, A. Sen Gupta, J. Nigro, F. Policelli, S. Habib, M. Tokay, M. S. Shrestha, S. Bajracharya, P. Hummel, M. Gray, P. Duda, B. Zaitchik, V. Mahat, G. Artan, S. Tokar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (SciVal)


Quantification of the contribution of the hydrologic components (snow, ice and rain) to river discharge in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is important for decision-making in water sensitive sectors, and for water resources management and flood risk reduction. In this area, access to and monitoring of the glaciers and their melt outflow is challenging due to difficult access, thus modeling based on remote sensing offers the potential for providing information to improve water resources management and decision making. This paper describes an integrated modeling system developed using downscaled NASA satellite based and earth system data products coupled with in-situ hydrologic data to assess the contribution of snow and glaciers to the flows of the rivers in the HKH region. Snow and glacier melt was estimated using the Utah Energy Balance (UEB) model, further enhanced to accommodate glacier ice melt over clean and debris-covered tongues, then meltwater was input into the USGS Geospatial Stream Flow Model (GeoSFM). The two model components were integrated into Better Assessment Science Integrating point and Nonpoint Sources modeling framework (BASINS) as a user-friendly open source system and was made available to countries in high Asia. Here we present a case study from the Langtang Khola watershed in the monsoon-influenced Nepal Himalaya, used to validate our energy balance approach and to test the applicability of our modeling system. The snow and glacier melt model predicts that for the eight years used for model evaluation (October 2003-September 2010), the total surface water input over the basin was 9.43. m, originating as 62% from glacier melt, 30% from snowmelt and 8% from rainfall. Measured streamflow for those years were 5.02. m, reflecting a runoff coefficient of 0.53. GeoSFM simulated streamflow was 5.31. m indicating reasonable correspondence between measured and model confirming the capability of the integrated system to provide a quantification of water availability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1859-1869
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue numberPart B
Early online date30 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 07 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Energy balance
  • Glacier melt
  • Himalayas
  • Stream flow


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