Irrigation and warming drive the decreases in surface albedo over High Mountain Asia


Human and climate induced land surface changes resulting from irrigation, snow cover decreases, and greening impact the surface albedo over High Mountain Asia (HMA). Here we use a partial information decomposition approach and remote sensing data to quantify the effects of the changes in leaf area index, soil moisture, and snow cover on the surface albedo in HMA, home to over a billion people, from 2003 to 2020. The study establishes strong evidence of anthropogenic agricultural water use over irrigated lands (e.g., Ganges–Brahmaputra) which causes the highest surface albedo decreases (≤ 1%/year). Greening and decreased snow cover from warming also drive changes in visible and near-infrared surface albedo in different areas of HMA. The significant role of irrigation and greening in influencing albedo suggests the potential of a positive feedback cycle where albedo decreases lead to increased evaporative demand and increased stress on water resources.

Scientific Reports

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