Quantitative measures of adiabatic lapse rate, equilibrium line altitude (ELA), and accumulation-area ratio (AAR) are important to understand the hydrological processes and conduct hydrological modeling in a highly glaciated watershed. We present a detailed analysis of temperature data from 21 climatic stations, hypsometric analyses of glacier distributions, and a method to analyze ablation gradients and runoff curves concurrently to quantify these parameters for the watersheds of the Upper Indus Basin (UIB), with 15,062 km2 of glacierized area and an elevation range of 361–8,611 m. We show that the ELA varies considerably from one watershed to another, implying a highly variable upper elevation limit up to which melting of snows and glaciers takes place throughout the basin. This is in sharp contrast to the assertions made by previous researchers. We show that the ELA is as low as 4,840 m in Astore watershed and it is as high as 6,200 m in Shyok watershed. In accordance with the variation of ELA, the AAR also varies considerably from one watershed to another. It is as low as 0.10 in Gilgit and as high as 0.65 in Zanskar watersheds. We ascribe 15–20% uncertainty to these estimates of ELA and AAR in UIB.

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