Characteristics of Historical Precipitation in High Mountain Asia Based on a 15-Year High Resolution Dynamical Downscaling


The mountains of High Mountain Asia serve as an important source of water for roughly one billion people living downstream. This research uses 15 years of dynamically downscaled precipitation produced by the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to delineate contrasts in precipitation characteristics and events between regions dominated by the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) versus westerly disturbances during the cool season (December to March). Cluster analysis reveals a more complex spatial pattern than indicated by some previous studies and illustrates the increasing importance of westerly disturbances at higher elevations. Although prior research suggests that a small number of westerly disturbances dominate precipitation in the western Himalaya and Karakoram, the WRF-downscaled precipitation is less dominated by infrequent large events. Integrated vapor transport (IVT) and precipitation are tightly coupled in both regions during the cool season, with precipitation maximizing for IVT from the south-southwest over the Karakoram and southeast-southwest over the western Himalaya. During the ISM, Karakoram precipitation is not strongly related to IVT direction, whereas over the western Himalaya, primary and secondary precipitation maxima occur for flow from the west-southwest and northwest, respectively. These differences in the drivers and timing of precipitation have implications for hydrology, glacier mass balance, snow accumulation, and their sensitivity to climate variability and change.