Contrasting climate change impact on river flows from high-altitude catchments in the Himalayan and Andes Mountains

Changes in the hydrology of high-altitude catchments may have major consequences for downstream water supply. Based on model projections with a higher spatiotemporal resolution and degree of process complexity than any previous intercontinental comparative study, we show that the impacts of climate change cannot be generalized. These impacts range from a high climatic sensitivity, decreasing runoff, and significant seasonal changes in the Central Andes of Chile to increasing future runoff, limited seasonal shifts, but increases in peak flows in the Nepalese Himalaya. This study constrains uncertainty about response times and mechanisms controlling glacier and runoff response to climate and sets a benchmark for process-based modeling of the climate change impact on the hydrology of high-altitude catchments.

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