Grand Challenges of Hydrologic Modeling for Food-Energy-Water Nexus Security in High Mountain Asia


Climate-influenced changes in hydrology affect water-food-energy security that may impact up to two billion people downstream of the High Mountain Asia (HMA) region. Changes in water supply affect energy, industry, transportation, and ecosystems (agriculture, fisheries) and as a result, also affect the region's social, environmental, and economic fabrics. Sustaining the highly interconnected food-energy-water nexus (FEWN) will be a fundamental and increasing challenge under a changing climate regime. High variability in topography and distribution of glaciated and snow-covered areas in the HMA region, and scarcity of high resolution (in-situ) data make it difficult to model and project climate change impacts on individual watersheds. We lack basic understanding of the spatial and temporal variations in climate, surface impurities in snow and ice such as black carbon and dust that alter surface albedo, and glacier mass balance and dynamics. These knowledge gaps create challenges in predicting where and when the impact of changes in river flow will be the most significant economically and ecologically. In response to these challenges, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) established the High Mountain Asia Team (HiMAT) in 2016 to conduct research to address knowledge gaps. This paper summarizes some of the advances HiMAT made over the past 5 years, highlights the scientific challenges in improving our understanding of the hydrology of the HMA region, and introduces an integrated assessment framework to assess the impacts of climate changes on the FEWN for the HMA region. The framework, developed under a NASA HMA project, links climate models, hydrology, hydropower, fish biology, and economic analysis. The framework could be applied to develop scientific understanding of spatio-temporal variability in water availability and the resultant downstream impacts on the FEWN to support water resource management under a changing climate regime.

Frontiers in Water