Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Cooperative Institute for Research
in Environmental Sciences

Richard Armstrong

Research Interests

Armstrong's research interests include: remote sensing of snow, ice, and frozen ground, snow cover and glacier mass extent as indicators of climate change, properties of avalanche snow, and data set and cryospheric product development.

Current Research

The Contribution to High Asia Runoff from Ice and Snow (CHARIS) project

The fundamental objective of the CHARIS project is to develop a thorough and systematic assessment of the individual contribution of seasonal snow and glacier ice to the water resources originating across the Himalaya, Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Pamir, and Tien Shan mountain ranges, referred to here as High Asia. The headwaters of the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Syr Darya, and Amu Darya rivers are all located in High Asia. While it is generally accepted that a significant component of the High Asian water resources results from the melting of glacier ice and seasonal snow, the actual water volume available from these two individual sources across this region remains generally unknown. Previous studies have simply combined the contributions of seasonal snow and glacier ice to estimate downstream water resources, although the former is resupplied each year, in varying amounts, and the latter is, for all practical purposes, a finite resource. Realistic estimates of the future availability and vulnerability of the water resources in this region are not possible until we achieve a better understanding of the individual contributions of seasonal snow and glacier ice to the current hydrologic regime.

To accomplish the primary research objectives, my group used a suite of satellite remote-sensing, reanalysis, and ground-based data (provided by Asian project partners), along with gridded maps of snow and glacier area/elevation, as input to spatially distributed temperature-index and energy-balance melt models. See for details.

Armstrong_Sherubtse College 2013AR13.jpg

Visit to the newest partner institution, Sherubtse College, Kanglung, Bhutan, of the Contribution to High Asia Runoff from Ice and Snow (CHARIS) project, November2013. Kneeling, left to right: Sonam Wangmo, Alana Wallace, Pema Lhendrup, and Betsy Armstrong. Standing, from left to right: Richard Armstrong, Ramakanta Barman, Tshering Wangdi, Sonam Chogyel, Pankaj Thapa, Dharmendra Chaudhur, and Konrad Steffen. Photo credit: Sherubtse College.

The improved understanding of High Asian water resources is a cross-boundary exercise, and the CHARIS project facilitates international collaboration through formal agreements between the University of Colorado Boulder and key research institutions located in Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The CHARIS project includes a strong capacity-building component in support of our international partners, with training courses occurring on the topics of mountain hydrology, glacier mass balance, glacier and snow cover mapping, and isotopic and geochemical tracers, as well as training in the use and application of satellite remote-sensing data and hydrologic models. Training courses took place in Kazakhstan and Nepal during 2013 and are planned for 2014 in India.


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