Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

An efficient representation of glacier dynamics in a semi-distributed hydrological model to bridge glacier and river catchment scales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access Status

  • Embargoed (until 18/03/20)


Michel Wortmann, Tobias Bolch, Su Buda, Valentina Krysanova

School/Research organisations


Glacierised river catchments have been shown to be highly sensitive to climate change, while large populations depend on the water resources originating from them. Hydrological models are used to aid water resource management, yet their treatment of glacier processes is either rudimentary in large-scale applications or linked to fully distributed glacier models that prevent larger model domains. Also, data scarcity in mountainous catchments has hampered the implementation of physically based approaches over entire river catchments. A fully integrated glacier dynamics module was developed for the hydrological model SWIM (SWIM-G) that takes full account of the spatial heterogeneity of mountainous catchments but keeps in line with the semi-distributed disaggregation of the hydrological model. The glacierised part of the catchment is disaggregated into glaciological response units that are based on subbasin, elevation zone and aspect classes. They seamlessly integrate into the hydrological response units of the hydrological model. Robust and simple approaches to ice ow, avalanching, snow accumulation and metamorphism as well as glacier ablation under consideration of aspect, debris cover and sublimation are implemented in the model, balancing process complexity and data availability. The fully integrated model is also capable of simulating a range of other hydrological processes that are common for larger mountainous catchments such as reservoirs, irrigation agriculture and runoff from a diverse soil and vegetation cover. SWIM-G is initialised and calibrated to initial glacier hypsometry, glacier mass balance and river discharge. While the model is intended to be used in medium to large river basins with data-scarce and glacierised headwaters, it is here validated in the data-scarce catchment of the Upper Aksu River, Kyrgyzstan/NW China and in the relatively data-abundant catchment of the Upper Rhone River, Switzerland.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-152
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Early online date18 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

    Research areas

  • Glaciohydrological model, SWIM, Aksu basin, Rhone basin, Glacier mass balance modelling

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. The status and role of the alpine cryosphere in Central Asia

    Hoelzle, M., Barandun, M., Bolch, T., Fiddes, J., Gafurov, A., Muccione, V., Saks, T. & Shagedanova, M., 2020, The Aral Sea Basin: Water for Sustainable Development in Central Asia. Xenarios, S., Schmidt-Vogt, D., Qadir, M., Janusz-Pawletta, B. & Abduallev, I. (eds.). London: Routledge, p. 100-121

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  2. An Integrative and Joint Approach to Climate Impacts, Hydrological Risks and Adaptation in the Indian Himalayan Region

    Huggel, C., Allen, S., Wymann von Dach, S., Dimri, A. P., Mal, S., Linbauer, A., Salzmann, N. & Bolch, T., 2020, Himalayan Weather and Climate and their Impact on the Environment. Dimri, A. P., Bookhagen, B., Stoffel, M. & Yasunari, T. (eds.). Cham: Springer International Publishing, p. 553-573 21 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  3. Glacial lakes exacerbate Himalayan glacier mass loss

    King, O., Bhattacharya, A., Bhambri, R. & Bolch, T., 2 Dec 2019, In : Scientific Reports. 9, 9 p., 18145.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Unravelling the evolution of Zmuttgletscher and its debris cover since the end of the Little Ice Age

    Mölg, N., Bolch, T., Walter, A. & Vieli, A., 11 Jul 2019, In : The Cryosphere. 13, 7, p. 1889-1909

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Potentially dangerous glacial lakes across the Tibetan Plateau revealed using a large-scale automated assessment approach

    Allen, S. K., Zhang, G., Wang, W., Yao, T. & Bolch, T., 15 Apr 2019, In : Science Bulletin. 64, 7, p. 435-445 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Flash flood events recorded by air temperature changes in caves: A case study in Covadura Cave (SE Spain)

    Gázquez, F., Calaforra, J. M. & Fernández-Cortés, Á., 1 Oct 2016, In : Journal of Hydrology. 541, p. 136-145 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Glacier mass changes in Rongbuk catchment on Mt. Qomolangma from 1974 to 2006 based on topographic maps and ALOS PRISM data

    Ye, Q., Bolch, T., Naruse, R., Wang, Y., Zong, J., Wang, Z., Zhao, R., Yang, D. & Kang, S., 1 Nov 2015, In : Journal of Hydrology. 530, p. 273-280 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Iron and manganese cycling in the storm runoff of a Scottish upland catchment

    Abesser, C., Robinson, R. & Soulsby, C., 15 Jul 2006, In : Journal of Hydrology. 326, p. 59-78 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Iron and manganese cycling during storm runoff in a Scottish Upland catchment

    Abesser, CA., Robinson, R. A. J. & Soulsby, C., 2005, In : Journal of Hydrology.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 258172729