Meltwater storage and delaying characteristics of Gangotri Glacier (Indian Himalayas) during ablation season

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Himalayan basins have considerable snow- and glacier-covered areas, which are an important source of water, particularly during summer season. In the Himalayan region, in general, the glacier melt season is considered to be from May to October. Changes in hydrological characteristics of the runoff over the melt season can be understood by studying the variation in time to peak and time lag between melt generation and its emergence as runoff. In the present study, the runoff-delaying characteristics of Gangotri Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the Indian Himalayas, have been studied. For this purpose, hourly discharge and temperature data were collected near the snout of the glacier (4000 m) for three ablation seasons (2004–2006). The diurnal variations in discharge and temperature provided useful information on water storage and runoff characteristics of the glacier. In the early stages of the ablation period, poor drainage network and stronger storage characteristics of the glaciers due to the presence of seasonal snow cover resulted in a much delayed response of melt water, providing a higher time lag and time to peak as compared to the peak melt season. A comparison of runoff-delaying parameters with the discharge ratio clearly indicated that changes in time lag and time to peak are inversely correlated with variations in discharge. Impact of such meltwater storage and delaying characteristics of glaciers on hydropower projects being planned/developed on glacier-fed streams in India has been discussed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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