CICERO - Center for International Climate Research

The Himalayan Climate and Water Atlas

News - News from CICERO

Published 11.12.2015

Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources in Five of Asia’s Major River Basins



The first of its kind, the atlas offers a comprehensive, regional understanding of the changing climate and its impact on water resources in five of the major river basins in the region – the Indus, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Salween and Mekong. It uses maps and infographics to show how the region’s climate is changing now and into the future, with severe consequences for populations, both local and downstream. The atlas includes recommendations to encourage policy makers to develop flexible and cooperative strategies between countries in order to deal with increased variability and to meet the challenges posed by either too much or too little water.


The atlas is a co-published by ICIMOD, GRID-Arendal and CICERO, and contains contributions from Nina Holmelin, Tor Aase and Bob van Oort.

Some of the main points in the atlas include:

  • Temperatures across the mountainous Hindu Kush Himalayan region will increase by about 1–2°C (in some places by up to 4–5°C) by 2050.
  • Precipitation will change with the monsoon expected to become longer and more erratic.
  • Extreme rainfall events are becoming less frequent, but more violent and are likely to increase in intensity.
  • Glaciers will continue to suffer substantial ice loss, with the main loss in the Indus basin.
  • Communities living immediately downstream from glaciers are most vulnerable to glacial changes.
  • Despite overall greater river flow projected, higher variability in river flows and more water in pre-monsoon months are expected, which will lead to a higher incidence of unexpected floods and droughts, greatly impacting the livelihood security and agriculture of river-dependent people;
  • Changes in temperature and precipitation will have serious and far-reaching consequences for climate-dependent sectors, such as agriculture, water resources and health.

The findings are drawn from the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP), funded by the governments of Norway and Sweden.

The atlas will be launched at a COP 21 side event on International Mountain Day, Friday 11 December, entitled ‘Celebrating international cooperation on climate change adaptation in mountain environments – from Rio to Lima to Paris’ (Peru Pavilion, 10.00–11.30am).