Coupling a global glacier model to a global hydrological model prevents underestimation of glacier runoff

P.G. Wiersma, J.P.M. Aerts, H. Zekollari, Rhythima, M. Hrachowitz, Niels Drost, Matthias Huss, Edwin H. Sutanudjaja, R.W. Hut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Global hydrological models have become a valuable tool for a range of global impact studies related to water resources. However, glacier parameterization is often simplistic or non-existent in global hydrological models. By contrast, global glacier models do represent complex glacier dynamics and glacier evolution, and as such, they hold the promise of better resolving glacier runoff estimates. In this study, we test the hypothesis that coupling a global glacier model with a global hydrological model leads to a more realistic glacier representation and, consequently, to improved runoff predictions in the global hydrological model. To this end, the Global Glacier Evolution Model (GloGEM) is coupled with the PCRaster GLOBal Water Balance model, version 2.0 (PCR-GLOBWB 2), using the eWaterCycle platform. For the period 2001–2012, the coupled model is evaluated against the uncoupled PCR-GLOBWB 2 in 25 large-scale (>50 000 km2), glacierized basins. The coupled model produces higher runoff estimates across all basins and throughout the melt season. In summer, the runoff differences range from 0.07 % for weakly glacier-influenced basins to 252 % for strongly glacier-influenced basins. The difference can primarily be explained by PCR-GLOBWB 2 not accounting for glacier flow and glacier mass loss, thereby causing an underestimation of glacier runoff. The coupled model performs better in reproducing basin runoff observations mostly in strongly glacier-influenced basins, which is where the coupling has the most impact. This study underlines the importance of glacier representation in global hydrological models and demonstrates the potential of coupling a global hydrological model with a global glacier model for better glacier representation and runoff predictions in glacierized basins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5971–5986
Number of pages16
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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