Variability and Trends in Water Balance Components of Benchmark Drainage Basins on the Tibetan Plateau


WET (finished)

(Link to the WET website)

The project was part of the BMBF F&E (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Forschung & Entwicklung) cooperative project: ´Tibet and Central Asia: Monsoon Dynamics and Geo-Ecosystems´ (CAME).

Research Region
Fig.1: Research region with detailed benchmark drainage basins and the research station of the regional partners.

Recent changes in the Tibetan Plateau hydrological cycle are threatening local populations and impacts the livelihood of millions of people in surrounding regions.

In cooperation with the Uni Marburg, the Uni Jena, the Uni Tübingen, the RWTH Aachen and the TU Dresden as well as Chinese partners of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) the TU Berlin investigated the coupling of climate and hydrological cycles on the example of benchmark drainage basins on the Tibetan Plateau and adjacent mountain ranges (Fig. 1). The selected drainage basins are hydrological systems with glaciers, lakes, rivers and wetlands with characteristic structural properties for the Tibetan Plateau.

The main objective of the WET project was the development of an integrative Model- and Research System (iMoRe-WET), which combines numerical models and satellite observations for the monitoring of all relevant atmospheric, hydrological and glaciological variables. This system will provide and analyse spatially distributed data sets of the major hydrological components (precipitation, evaporation, snow accumulation and melt, river discharge...) for the last decade and eventually become a tool for real-time monitoring and sensitivity analysis.

Events and Current Activities:

  • Nov-Dec 2013, Nepal: Third field campaign of the WET Project (TU Dresden, Uni Tübingen)
  • 23.-24. September 2013, Aachen: WET meeting, WET Phase 2, field work Nepal
  • 22.-24. August 2013, Tübingen: 28th Himalayan Karakorum Tibet Workshop and 6th International Symposium on Tibetan Plateau Joint Conference
  • 04.-05. July 2013, Marburg: WET meeting, preparation HKT-ISTP, WET Phase 2
  • 14.-15. February 2013, Berlin: WET mid-term meeting
  • 14.-18. January 2013, Oberjoch: 2nd BMBF-TiP Central Asia Young Scientists Meeting
  • 11. August - 04. September 2012, Tibet: Second field investigation within the WET Project
  • 16. - 20. January 2012, Oberjoch: BMBF-TiP Central Asia Young Scientists Meeting
  • 20. - 21. November 2011, Berlin: WET Project Meeting 2011, official Kick-Off Meeting
  • 19. August - 9. September 2011, Tibet: First field investigation within the WET Project for the instrumentation of the benchmark drainage basin near the Kailash.

iMoRe-WET Working Packages:

Atmospherical Modelling
(TU Berlin)

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Atmospherical Modelling

High Asia Refined analysis (HAR), Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF-ARW)

Modelling on basis of operational analysis data (e.g. GFS), retrieval of meteorological variables (temperature, precipitation, wind, radiation ..) at high spatiotemporal resolution
Atmospherical Remote Sensing
(Uni Marburg)

Click to enlarge
Atmospherical Remote Sensing

TRMM, Meteosat and MODIS

Cloud classification, precipitation retrieval
Hydrological Modelling
(Uni Jena)

Click to enlarge Hydrological Modelling

Hydrological Model J2000, JAMS

´Hydrological Response Units´ (HRU) from remote sensing data, integration of further model components
Hydrological Remote Sensing
(Uni Tübingen)

Click to enlarge Hydrological Remote Sensing

Optical, SAR and Altimeter Systems

Sea level changes, temporal snowline, near-surface soil moisture
Glaciological Modelling
(RWTH Aachen)

Click to enlarge Glaciological Modelling


Energy and mass balance of glaciers, determination of climate-sensitive variables
Glaciological Remote Sensing
(TU Dresden)

Click to enlarge Glaciological Remote Sensing

Optical, SAR and Altimeter Systems

Digital terrain model/ glacier movements and volume changes, glacier mass balance


  • Biskop, S., Krause, P., Helmschrot, J., Fink, M., and Flügel, W.-A. (2012): Assessment of data uncertainty and plausibility over the Nam Co Region, Tibet, Adv. Geosci., 31, 57-65, doi:10.5194/adgeo-31-57-2012, 2012.

    Link to the paper

  • Collier, E., Mölg, T., Maussion, F., Scherer, D., Mayer, C., and Bush, A. B. G. (2013): High-resolution interactive modelling of the mountain glacier-atmosphere interface: an application over the Karakoram, The Cryosphere, 7, 779-795, doi:10.5194/tc-7-779-2013, 2013.

    Link to the paper

  • Curio, J., Maussion, F., and Scherer, D. (2015): A 12-year high-resolution climatology of atmospheric water transport over the Tibetan Plateau, Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 109-124, doi:10.5194/esd-6-109-2015.

    Link to the Paper

  • Dietze, E., Maussion, F., Ahlborn, M., Diekmann, B., Hartmann, K., Henkel, K., Kasper, T., Lockot, G., Opitz, S., and Haberzettl, T. (2014): Sediment transport processes across the Tibetan Plateau inferred from robust grain-size end members in lake sediments, Clim. Past, 10, 91-106, doi:10.5194/cp-10-91-2014, 2014.

    Link to the paper

  • Kropacek, J., Maussion, F., Chen, F., Hoerz, S., and Hochschild, V. (2013): Analysis of ice phenology of lakes on the Tibetan Plateau from MODIS data, The Cryosphere, 7, 287-301, doi:10.5194/tc-7-287-2013, 2013.

    Link to the paper

  • Kropacek, J., Braun, A., Kang, S., Feng, C., Ye, Q., Hochschild, V. (2012): Analysis of lake level changes of Nam Co in Central Tibet by synergy of satellite altimetry and evaluation of optical satellite imagery, International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 17, 3-11, doi:10.1016/j.jag.2011.10.001, 2012.

    Link to the paper

  • Maussion, F., Scherer, D., Mölg, T., Collier, E., Curio, J. and Finkelnburg, R. (2014): Precipitation seasonality and variability over the Tibetan Plateau as resolved by the High Asia Reanalysis, J. Climate, 27, 1910-1927, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00282.1, 2014.

    Link to the paper

  • Maussion, F., Scherer, D., Finkelnburg, R., Richters, J., Yang, W., and Yao, T. (2011): WRF simulation of a precipitation event over the Tibetan Plateau, China - an assessment using remote sensing and ground observations, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1795-1817, doi:10.5194/hess-15-1795-2011, 2011.

    Link to the paper

  • Mölg, T., Maussion, F., Scherer, D. (2013): Mid-latitude westerlies as a driver of glacier variability in monsoonal High Asia, Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/nclimate2055, 2013.

    Link to the paper

  • Mölg, T., Maussion, F., Yang, W., and Scherer, D. (2012): The footprint of Asian monsoon dynamics in the mass and energy balance of a Tibetan glacier, The Cryosphere, 6, 1445-1461, doi:10.5194/tc-6-1445-2012, 2012.

    Link to the paper

  • Neckel, N., Braun, A., Kropacek, J., and Hochschild, V. (2013): Recent mass balance of the Purogangri Ice Cap, central Tibetan Plateau, by means of differential X-band SAR interferometry, The Cryosphere, 7, 1623-1633, doi:10.5194/tc-7-1623-2013, 2013.

    Link to the paper

  • Neckel, N., Kropacek, J., Bolch, T., and Hochschild, V. (2014): Glacier mass changes on the Tibetan Plateau 2003 - 2009 derived from ICESat laser altimetry measurements, Environmental Research Letters, 9, 014009, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/1/014009, 2014.

    Link to the paper

  • Rüthrich, F., B. Thies, C. Reudenbach, and Bendix, J. (2013): Cloud detection and analysis on the tibetan plateau using meteosat and cloudsat, J. Geophys. Res-Atmos., 118, 17, 10082-10099, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50790, 2013.

    Link to the paper

  • Zhang, G., S. Kang, K. Fujita, Y. Wei, E. Huintjes, J. Xu, T. Yamazaki, S. Haginoya, D. Scherer, C. Schneider & T. Yao (2013): Energy and mass balance of the Zhadang Glacier surface, central Tibetan Plateau, Journal of Glaciology, 59, 213, 137-148(12), doi:10.3189/2013JoG12J152, 2013.

    Link to the paper

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Postal address:

Fachgebiet Klimatologie
Institut für Ökologie
TU Berlin
Rothenburgstraße 12
D-12165 Berlin



Elke Thiessenhusen

room: AB1-110
opening hours:
Monday - Thursday
9am - 2pm
Tel: +49-(0)30-314-73195
Fax: +49-(0)30-314-71355

Scientific work at Uni Zürich:

Scientific work at Uni Tübingen: