The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

Water resources of Afghanistan and related hazards under rapid climate warming

Part VI

Past studies commonly used planimetric maps and topographic diagrams to assess the state of individual Afghan glaciers, and only seven out of 44 reports undertook more detailed analysis including fieldwork. Only one large-scale glaciological sketch map and two conclusive glacier maps have been produced in Afghanistan: for the Mir Samir area (Gilbert et al.; and for the Keshnikhan and Wakhan Pamir ranges (produced in 1978 but not published until Shroder and Bishop. Haritashya et al. evaluated the margins of 30 Alpine Valley glaciers in the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan (northeastern region, for the period 1976 to 2003, and identified 28 glacier tongues that have retreated by between 1.3 and 36 m year”1. The study also found an increase in the number and area of new proglacial lakes, from 46 600 to 166 600 m2 (Haritashya et al. Sarikaya et al. used the same methodology to assess the Eastern Hindukush including areas along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border. They studied three time periods (1976–1992, 1992–2001, and 2001–2007) and made an overall comparison between 1976 and 2007. They found that 68% of glaciers retreated, 19% advanced and 14% showed no net change between 1976 and 1992. These numbers changed to 41% retreating for 1992–2001 and 76% retreating for the period 2001–2007. Retreat rates ranged from “15.5 to “10.2 m year”1. Recently, Joya et al. assessed the equilibrium line altitude in Kokcha sub-catchment of Panj Amu River basin and observed an average change in altitude of 722 ± 145 m from the Late Pleistocene to the present. Since 2018, only the Ykhchaal-e-Sherq (East Glacier) of the Mir Samir glacier system has been monitored, with the newly given name of PirYakh by the Ministry of Energy and Water and Kabul University. The result of one year of monitoring (2018–2019) revealed spatial patterns of ablation between 1.8 m and 4 m and a negative balance of 1.7 million m3 of water equivalent. There are very few detailed and systematic snow cover studies in Afghanistan. Although Soviet scientists used satellite imagery and field measurements, assessed seasonal snow distribution and depth, and recorded dynamics of the snow boundary, seasonal snow-lines, and duration of snow cover (Shroder and Bishop these studies are not publicly available. Later, a series of individual studies of transient snow lines (TSLs) performed by Haritashya et al., Shroder and Bishop and Sarikaya et al., with data for the period 1960 to 2012, suggested no clear patterns of change. Most recently, Nepal et al. modeled snow cover evolution throughout the 21st century (2071–2100) compared to the historical period (1981–2010) in the Panjshir catchment of the northern Kabul River basin. They projected a 10 to 18% reduction in annual snow cover area with the most optimistic condition (i.e. cold-wet models). At the seasonal scale, autumn and spring season snow covers are projected to decrease by as much as 25%. Spatial and temporal changes at the sub-catchment scale in Kokcha and Panjshir basins highlight a need for systematic multi-year studies of TSLs in Afghanistan, and this is a key weakness in linking climate change to water resources at present. Glaciers in Afghanistan are retreating by 0.54% year”1 (Maharjan et al.; however, the rate varies by sub-region (Haritashya et al., Sarikaya et al. to a degree that is only poorly known. More work is required in this sense. There is no doubt that glaciers are a highly important part of water resources in Afghanistan because glacier melt provides an almost guaranteed water supply, notably in summer when agricultural demands are highest. Predicted declines in winter snowfall in the future will make this meltwater dependence stronger as more precipitation will fall as rain rather than accumulate as snow in winter. A deeper understanding of the linkages between glaciers and water resources in Afghanistan is urgently needed. Only one monitoring site is not enough to assess the state of the entire country’s cryosphere (Sarikaya et al. especially given its geographical complexity in hydro-climatological terms and the likely different response of regions to temperature and precipitation forcing by climate change. Cryospheric monitoring should be extended to eastern, northern, and central Afghanistan, especially to those regions monitored in the past (Yakhchaal-eGharb Mir Samir area (Gilbert et al.; the Keshnikhan, and the Wakhan Pamir ranges in 1978 (Shroder and Bishop. At the national scale, studies of debris-covered glaciers are missing in Afghanistan. Understanding snow cover and its changes is also underdeveloped, and this is important not only for glacier mass balance studies now and in the future but also for planning hydropower development (Saloranta et al. More research is required to accurately characterize changes in the seasonal variability of snow-line elevation through time (Shroder and Bishop). From: Hydrological Sciences Journal

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.