It is now well established that climate change will deeply affect both ecosystems and hydrological systems, especially in the Himalayan region. Overall, snow and ice from the Himalayan glaciers will melt faster than it accumulates and surrounding countries (e.g. India) will be impacted socially, economically and ecologically. Climate change is expected to have both short and long term effects on the hydrological system. In the short term, discharge of mountain rivers is projected to increase due to the additional melting of snow and glaciers of the Himalayas. In the long term, with glaciers declining, there will be a reduced amount of water flowing into rivers. Runoff variability will increase and reflect precipitation variability. Northern Indiais highly dependent on summer monsoons and glacier snowmelt for its water resources. This region needs damage-reducing techniques such as efficient and relevant adaptation measures and response strategies in order to cope with the changing patterns of water resources availability.
However, simulating the integrated impact of changing glacier retreat, snowmelt and monsoon patterns is a complex challenge. A sophisticated approach was developed in the three-year project HighNoon (which is a compound word that stands for high, referring to the Himalayas, and noon, which is related to the monsoon). Partners of the project combined various climate change scenarios, available climate and hydrological data, advanced regional modelling tools and participatory research approaches. They focused on identifying adaptation options to changes in snow and glacier melt and changes in monsoon patterns. Water availability, which is also affected by socio-economic development, was evaluated in all scenarios that were developed.
The principal results of the project include data sets, inventories of the snow and ice area and volumes for the Himalayan region (i.e. a glacier inventory as well as a glacier lake inventory). The data sets mainly consist of climate data from four regional climate model runs. Daily data are available for radiation, temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, snowfall and wind. The spatial resolution of 0.25 degree (25 x 25 km) has improved simulations for the region considerably, especially in the mountainous region. A set of policy recommendations dedicated to support decision-makers in their strategic planning process and an indicator framework tool and water resources GIS server were also developed.
Moreover, the project team used the outcomes from the scenarios to develop adaptation measures regarding water supply, agriculture, energy and health. With a coupled hydrology-vegetation model called LPJmL the extent of future water shortages and the effect of various adaptation options for India’s food production were assessed. With the tool WaterWise a strategy for managing the prioritization of adaptation measures was explored. It suggested how to make the best use of available land- and water resources (e.g. investments in land use conversion, irrigation schemes or hydropower). The methods and models that were developed for the north of India are also applicable for other areas. The maturity of the results indicates that the project readiness level is estimated to be 7 on the TRL scale.
The project was funded under the seventh framework programme (FP7), a grant funding programme , ended in May 2012 and was coordinated by the Alterra - Wageningen University and Research Centre in
the Netherlands. The project team collaborated closely with the WATCH project to achieve synergy effects. The project activities have also contributed to the Specific International Co-operation Actions (SICA) between EU and India.