BAMS: Observing Multisphere Hydrological Changes in the Largest River Basin of the Tibetan Plateau

2024-02-23 22:50:25 11



Upper Brahmaputra (UB) is the largest (∼240,000 km2) river basin of the Tibetan Plateau, where hydrological processes are highly sensitive to climate change. However, constrained by difficult access and sparse in situ observations, the variations in precipitation, glaciers, frozen ground, and vegetation across the UB basin remain largely unknown, and consequently the impacts of climate change on streamflow cannot be accurately assessed. To fill this gap, this project aims to establish a basinwide, large-scale observational network (that includes hydrometeorology, glacier, frozen ground, and vegetation observations), which helps quantify the UB runoff processes under climate–cryosphere–vegetation changes. At present, a multisphere observational network has been established throughout the catchment: 1) 12 stations with custom-built weighing automatic rain/snow meters and temperature probes to obtain elevation-dependent gradients; 2) 9 stations with soil moisture/temperature observations at four layers (10, 40, 80, 120 cm) covering Alpine meadow, grasslands, shrub, and forest to measure vegetation (biomass and vegetation types) and soil (physical properties) simultaneously; 3) 34 sets of probes to monitor frozen ground temperatures from 4,500 to 5,200 m elevation (100-m intervals), and two observation systems to monitor water and heat transfer processes in frozen ground at Xuegela (5,278 m) and Mayoumula (5,256 m) Mountains, for improved mapping of permafrost and active layer characteristics; 4) 5 sets of altimetry discharge observations along ungauged cross sections to supplement existing operational gauges; 5) high-precision glacier boundary and ice-surface elevation observations at Namunani Mountain with differential GPS, to supplement existing glacier observations for validating satellite imagery. This network provides an excellent opportunity to monitor UB catchment processes in great detail.