In the Hindu Kush Himalayas, 18 percent of the total land area – around 0.76 million square kilometres – is covered by snow. It’s part of the world’s cryosphere, a word that traces its origins to the Greek word kryos, or frost, and is an important part of the climate system.
Snow cover helps regulate the temperature of the earth's surface, and variations in snow cover can affect regional weather patterns. The cooling associated with moist spring soils and a heavy snowpack in Eurasia is believed to shift the arrival of the summer monsoon season and influence its strength and duration.
Snow also sustains glaciers and is a crucial source of water in the region. Annual snowmelt contributes from 10 percent to more than 30 percent of the flow of the 10 major river basins that originate high in the Hindu Kush Himalaya and flow downstream to farmlands and cities. The combination of seasonal snowmelt and glacial melt plays a key role in river hydrology and in daily life downstream. Hundreds of millions of people rely on snowfall in distant mountains for water to grow crops, cook food, wash dishes, manage the daily needs of their households and businesses, and generate the power that supplies their electricity.
The statistics on glaciers can be viewd for entire HKH region or at disaggregatged basin and sub-basin levels. The glacier number, glacier area and estimated ice reserves can be viewed as charts for user-specified cut-off elevation, cut-off slope and aspect.
ICIMOD undertook Glacial Lake Inventory of the HKH Region using satellite images. Lakes were mapped covering five major river basins of the HKH region namely Amu Darya, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, and Irrawaddy and numbered those lakes accordingly.