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One of the major tributaries of the Upper Indus is the Shyok River, which originates from the eastern Karakoram Range. Two other major rivers, namely the Nubra, originating from Siachen Glacier, and the Hushey, which flows from Masherbrum glacier in the Karakoram, feed the Shyok with melt water. The Zanskar River and Shingo River, both of which originate from the western ranges of the Greater Himalayas, nourish the main stem of the Indus, before its confluence with the Shyok. Downstream of the confluence of the Indus and the Shyok, the major rivers that contribute to the flows in the Indus are Shigar, carrying melt water from various glaciers in the central Karakoram; Hunza, carrying melt water from the western Karakoram; Gilgit/originating from the Hindu Kush; and Astore, originating from the Burzil Pass in the western extreme of the Greater Himalayas. Therefore, nine major watersheds constitute UIB (Figure 1). Table 2 provides the basic data on these watersheds, including the extents of glacial covers in these watersheds as determined from the Randolph Glacier Inventory (RGI Version 3.2; http://www.glims.org/RGI/; Pfeffer et al. 2014). Table 3 gives the hypsometric data for each of the watersheds.
Figure 1

Major rivers and watersheds of UIB with locations of the climatic stations from where data have been collected and used in the present study.

Figure 1

Major rivers and watersheds of UIB with locations of the climatic stations from where data have been collected and used in the present study.

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Table 2

Major watersheds of UIB

WatershedWatershed area (km2)Glacial cover RGI-3.0 (km2)1Glacier extents (range in m)
Shyok 33,470 7,696 ± 770 3,221–7,803 
Hunza 13,734 3,843 ± 384 2,299–7,809 
Shigar 7,040 2,121 ± 212 2,716–8,569 
Gilgit 12,713 836.3 ± 84 2,750–6,992 
Zanskar 14,861 1,189 ± 119 3,927–6,509 
Shingo 10,502 733 ± 73 3,579–7,103 
Astore  3,988 541 ± 54 2,897–8,020 
Kharmong (UIB)* 44,667 601 ± 60 4,438–6,507 
Tarbela (UIB)** 26,053 776± 78 2,602–8,069 
WatershedWatershed area (km2)Glacial cover RGI-3.0 (km2)1Glacier extents (range in m)
Shyok 33,470 7,696 ± 770 3,221–7,803 
Hunza 13,734 3,843 ± 384 2,299–7,809 
Shigar 7,040 2,121 ± 212 2,716–8,569 
Gilgit 12,713 836.3 ± 84 2,750–6,992 
Zanskar 14,861 1,189 ± 119 3,927–6,509 
Shingo 10,502 733 ± 73 3,579–7,103 
Astore  3,988 541 ± 54 2,897–8,020 
Kharmong (UIB)* 44,667 601 ± 60 4,438–6,507 
Tarbela (UIB)** 26,053 776± 78 2,602–8,069 

*Kharmong (UIB): Watershed draining the headwater catchments of Upper Indus River and those along its course up to Kharmong (before its confluence with Shyok, Zanskar and Dras Nala watersheds are excluded).

**Tarbela (UIB): Watershed draining the catchments of the Upper Indus River along its course from Kharmong up to the point of inflow into the Tarbela Reservoir (all major tributary watersheds are excluded).

Data from the Randolph Glacier Inventory version 3.0, released in 2013 (http://www.glims.org/RGI/). These areas are estimated for glaciers only. The accuracy is assumed to be 90% (error bars at 10%).

The extents of glaciers in the elevation range have been derived from the SRTM DEM by overlying the RGI 3.0 glacier maps on it.

Table 3

Percentages of surface areas in five elevation zones (hypsometric bands) for the nine major watersheds of UIB

 Hypsometric bands (areas are in percentages of total areas)
Watershed< 1,000 m1,000–2,500 m2,500–3,500 m3,500–5,300 m5,300–6,500 m> 6,500 m
Tarbela 0.15 2.89 10.36 64.57 21.93 0.1 
Shyok 0.84 3.73 44.73 50.2 0.5 
Hunza 3.64 16.75 69.9 5.82 3.89 
Shigar 4.26  8.52 65.34 19.89 1.99 
Gilgit 4.64 14.24 78.58 2.44 0.1 
Zanskar 1.48 69.98 28.26 0.28 
Shingo 8.57 87.13 2.66 1.64 
Astore 2.51 18.8 76.48 1.25 0.96 
Kharmong (UIB)* 0.04 2.19 72.77 24.85 0.15 
 Hypsometric bands (areas are in percentages of total areas)
Watershed< 1,000 m1,000–2,500 m2,500–3,500 m3,500–5,300 m5,300–6,500 m> 6,500 m
Tarbela 0.15 2.89 10.36 64.57 21.93 0.1 
Shyok 0.84 3.73 44.73 50.2 0.5 
Hunza 3.64 16.75 69.9 5.82 3.89 
Shigar 4.26  8.52 65.34 19.89 1.99 
Gilgit 4.64 14.24 78.58 2.44 0.1 
Zanskar 1.48 69.98 28.26 0.28 
Shingo 8.57 87.13 2.66 1.64 
Astore 2.51 18.8 76.48 1.25 0.96 
Kharmong (UIB)* 0.04 2.19 72.77 24.85 0.15 

*Kharmong (UIB): Watershed draining the headwater catchments of the Upper Indus River and those along its course up to Kharmong (before its confluence with Shyok, Zanskar and Shingo watersheds are excluded).

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