Vol.5, No.9, 987-992 (2013) Natural Science
Hydro-meteorological characteristics of Chitral River
basin at the peak of the Hindukush range
Salma Khalid1*, Shafiq Ur Rehman2, Syed Mushtaq Ali Shah3, Alia Naz1, Beena Saeed4,
Sadia Alam5, Farman Ali4, Hasina Gul6
1Department of Environmental Sciences, Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, Pakistan;
*Corresponding Author: anagalious_79@yahoo.com
2Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan
3Regional Meteorological Centre, Peshawar, Pakistan
4Department of Agriculture, Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, Pakistan
5Department of Biotechnology, Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, Pakistan
6Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Peshawar, Pakistan
Received 29 March 2013; revised 29 April 2013; accepted 7 May 2013
Copyright © 2013 Salma Khalid et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This paper presents the impact of mean maxi-
mum temperature on Chitral river basin situated
at Chitral district and high altitude (>6000 m)
peaks of the Hindukush range under changing
climate in Pakistan. The analysis of Chitral River
as one of the tributary of Kabul River—the sec-
ond largest river of Pakistan—revealed that
change in temperature has a profound influence
on the snow/glacial melt in comparison to the
mean monthly rainfall. This is because the stud-
ied river is faded by the snow and glacial melt
and receives a lot of snowfall from winter (Dec-
Feb) to pre-monsoon (April-May). In monsoon
period (Jul-Sep), 30% of the time the discharge
rate remains above the mean while 60% of the
time the discharge is less than the mean in the
pre-monsoon (April-May) period. It means that
10% of the time the discharge is in reach of
300% to 900% of the mean flow, showing a rise
in water yield and river discharge rate due to
increase in mean monthly maximum tempera-
ture. Due to this significant increase (p < 0.05),
the glaciers start melting faster and disappear in
early summer, hence, reducing their residency
period to convert into ice. This shows the sig-
nals of changing climate transfer into hydro-
logical changes in Pakistan. Our findings are
important for agriculture, hydropow er and w ater
management sectors for future planning espe-
cially in dry seaso n for sustainable food security
and for operation of hydrological installations in
the country.
Keywords: Mean Maximum Temperature; Mean
Rainfall; River Discharge; Climate Change; Chitral
The rising trend in temperatures, associated with the
changes in precipitation pattern, enhances the hydrologi-
cal cycle in the form of stream flow volume as well as its
distribution throughout the year and temporally causing
significant water stress [1]. According to Kundzewicz et
al. [2] that discharge in glacier fed rivers will remain
increase in the short term but decrease over the next few
decades as slowly and gradually ice storage will dimin-
ished. It means that temperature change is one of the
major factors, affecting precipitation distribution, which
may be in the form of snow, glacier melting and rainfall
and is considered as major contributor to the fresh water
sources [3-6]. During the past two decades numerous
studies have been conducted on the hydrological effects
of climate change such as Ayers et al. [7], Gleick [8-10],
Lettenmaier and Gan [11], Mather and Feddema [12],
McCabe and Ayers [13], Nemec and Schaake [14], and
Schaake [15] from different regions of the world. These
studies mainly focus on the effects of changes in tem-
perature and precipitation on mean monthly, seasonal, or
annual river flows. In Pakistan, Rehman et al. [16] have
reviewed discharge characteristics and suspended load of
the northern Indus basins and concluded that most of the
area show highest discharge during the July and the
summer, and total ratio for most of the northern rivers is
>80%. Pakistan is located in South Asia between 24˚37'N
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
S. Khalid et al. / Natural Science 5 (2013) 987-992
latitude and 66˚77'E and occupies a total geographical
area of 803,943 km2 [17]. The country has Arabian Sea
in the south bordering India in the east and Iran in the
south east, Afghanistan on the north-west and China in
the north. High mountains ranges comprise Himalaya
and Karakoram ranges with a small part of the Hindu-
kush range are present in the north of the country. Paki-
stan is the only place where these three great mountain
ranges meet. There are more than 5000 glaciers contrib-
uting to the Indus River from 10 sub-basins through dif-
ferent tributaries [18]. The effects of global warming in
mountain areas are visibly manifested by shrinking of
mountain glaciers and reduced snow cover duration [19].
Glacier and Snowmelt water from these glaciers contrib-
utes significantly to the river flows in Pakistan [20]. It
has one of the largest river network which mainly con-
sists of river Indus, river Jhelum, river Chenab, river
Kabul, river Ravi and river Sutlej. Several tributaries of
the two big rivers i.e. Indus and Kabul originate from
areas included in extreme north of Pakistan. These two
rivers are fed by the snow and glacial melt as receiving a
lot of snowfall in winter and the pre-monsoon dry sea-
son (April-May). The freshwater supply derived from
snow and ice melt serves as a critical resource for irriga-
tion and hydropower generation. Hydroelectric power
remains the most economically viable and environmen-
tally safest method to overcome the energy crises in the
country. In addition, demand for agricultural and domes-
tic water in particular increases significantly at hotter and
drier times of the year as agriculture has always been the
dominant user of surface water for irrigation. Meanwhile,
due to industrial growth in the country, water demand for
the industry is also on rise and might compete with agri-
culture and domestic water consumption. This paper is
intended to discuss and review the hydro-meteorological
characteristics and discharge rate on seasonal and monthly
basis as well as to ascertain the effect of maximum tem-
perature on Chitral River discharge. This type of infor-
mation is useful not only for watershed management but
also for irrigation, hydel power generation and disaster
management sectors.
Chitral River is one of the major indirect tributaries of
the Indus River arises near the Baroghil pass in Hindu-
kush Mountains from Kunhar River as one of the tribu-
tary of Kabul river in Afghanistan (Figure 1). The upper
most section of the Chitral River is known as Yarkhum
River, between Mastuj and Chitral towns and down-
stream it is called Chitral River located between 35˚50
and 71˚48. The drainage area of Chitral River in Chitral
is 11,396 km2. The mean annual runoff of the river for 34
years of record (1964-98) is 8670 Mm3. The maximum
recorded discharge was 1586 m3/s on 16th July, 1973 and
Figure 1. Map of Pakistan showing Chitral watershed.
the minimum recorded discharge was 46 m3/s on 10th
March, 1964. The river is glacier/ snow fed and it flows
steadily throughout the year with additional runoff dur-
ing the monsoon period i.e. Jul-Sept [20]. It drains an
extensive area of high relief and snow cover in Chitral
and subsequently contributes well over half of the dis-
charge of the Kabul River. About 30 km west of Pesha-
war, the Kabul River was dammed for irrigation and hy-
del power generation with and optimum capacity of
250,000 kW. However, due to extensive silting during the
last thirty years, the reservoir is almost full and power
generation has dropped to a range of 20,000 - 64,000 kW
during winters and summers, respectively [16,21].
The dataset used in this study consisted of mean mini-
mum and maximum temperatures and rainfall records
obtained from the Climate Data Processing Centre (CDPC)
of Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) while
river discharge data was acquired from Water and Power
Supply Development Authority (WAPDA). In order to
analyze the data and determine trends in temperature,
rainfall changes and their effects on the Chitral River
flow, means were computed for the 5 years and entire
period (1976-2000). The reliability of data and homoge-
neity of means were statistically tested by applying dif-
ferent statistical tests, using SPSS version 20.
Interpretation of each variable i.e. mean minimum and
maximum temperatures, mean rainfall and mean river
flow was performed separately into 5 years for trend sig-
nificance (Table 1 ) and 25 years analysis for the influ-
ence determination of temperature on river discharge rate
through hydro-meteorological characteristics of river basin
analysis for the entire study period i.e. 1976-2000 (Table 2).
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S. Khalid et al. / Natural Science 5 (2013) 987-992
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
Table 1. Five years trend of hydro-meteorological variables.
Hydro- Meteorological variables Years Mean Std. Error 95% CI for M ea n
Upper Value Lower Value
1976-1980 9.0 0.1 8.6 9.4
1981-1985 8.9 0.1 8.6 9.2
1986-1990 8.4 0.2 7.9 8.9
1991-1995 9.0 0.4 8.0 9.9
Mean Minimum temperature
F = 0.96, p = 0.45
1996-2000 8.8 0.3 8.0 9.6
1976-1980 23.6 0.4 22.6 24.6
1981-1985 23.1 0.3 22.2 24.0
1986-1990 23.7 0.1 23.4 24.0
1991-1995 23.0 0.3 21.9 23.7
Mean Maximum temperature
F = 3.23, p = 0.03*
1996-2000 *24.2 0.3 23.3 25.0
1976-1980 26.9 3.1 18.2 35.6
1981-1985 32.8 3.7 22.6 43.0
1986-1990 44.3 3.7 34.0 54.7
1991-1995 *53.1 3.3 43.9 62.3
Mean Rainfall
F = 10.53, p = 0.00*
1996-2000 42.6 1.2 39.3 45.9
Mean River discharge 1976-1980 262.0 6.8 243.3 280.7
1981-1985 267.6 15.1 225.7 309.5
F = 7.134, p = 0.00* 1986-1990 272.8 17.2 225.1 320.5
1991-1995 *295.4 10.3 266.8 324.0
1996-2000 *285.2 6.0 268.4 302.0
*Most significant p < 0.05.
Table 2. Hydro-meteorological characteristics of Chitral River basin on mean monthly basis.
Chitral River (766,622 m3/s water yield per annum)
Months Min Temp (˚C) Max Temp (˚C) Rainfall (mm) Discharge (m3/s)
Jan 0.51 9.45 47.82 77.15
Feb 0.80 10.68 57.19 68.36
Mar 3.91 14.83 117.27 66.44
Apr 8.28 22.60 70.45 90.61
May 12.12 28.31 43.28 191.34
Jun 16.92 34.14 14.61 463.97
Jul 19.99 36.02 8.39 841.90
Aug 18.48 34.56 6.49 758.03
Sep 13.10 31.73 14.14 386.19
Oct 7.16 25.29 18.35 172.03
Nov 2.59 18.94 30.40 112.77
Dec 0.23 12.53 39.36 90.27
4.1. 5 Years Trend
To get a better understanding of observed trends, the
annual mean of minimum and maximum temperatures,
rainfall and river discharge data were carefully analyzed
through ANOVA test into five years trend for their sig-
nificance at p < 0.05. In the Table 1, mean maximum,
rainfall and river discharge have been observed most sig-
nificant as compared to mean minimum temperature.
4.2. 25 Years Trend
Hydro-meteorological characteristics have been deter-
mined through water yield/contribution per annum in
S. Khalid et al. / Natural Science 5 (2013) 987-992
catchment’s basin and river basin analysis (Table 2).
W ater Yield Calculation
Daily water yield D calculation has been carried out
through an annual average value X from the mean annual
values of different years. This average value was then
multiplied with the factor 86,400 (seconds are changed
into days) to get amount of water in cubic meters per day
Y. Y was then divided by the catchments area Z of a par-
ticular station to get daily yield in m3/s of the catchment
WhereYX86, 400
According to WAPDA [22] that precipitation rate in
Chitral river catchment’s area is comparatively low, es-
pecially the influence of the monsoon rainfall, which
makes the more northern parts of the valley quite arid.
Because of high altitude, precipitation mostly comes in
the form of snowfall that feeds snowfields and glaciers of
Hindukush Mountains.
The dataset of Chitral River shows the mean annual
discharge of 277 m3/s (Table 1) with a strong monthly
variance ranging from a maximum of 841.90 m3/s in July
to a minimum of 66.44 m3/s in March (Table 2).
It has also been noted from the weather record of Chi-
tral station that on average July is the hottest and driest
month of the year having mean maximum temperature of
36˚C and 8 mm of average rainfall whereas the mean
maximum temperature of March is about 15˚C and an
average of 117 mm rainfall. Hence it is clear that tem-
perature has a profound influence on the snow/glacial
melt in comparison to rainfall. The discharge of Chitral
River increases almost 12 times from March to July
(Figure 2). The analysis also shows that maximum flow
(60%) takes place in the monsoon period i.e. Jul-Sep
followed by 23% flow in pre-monsoon period. The flow
duration curve (Figure 3) indicates that the discharge
remains above the mean approximately 30% of the time
while 60% of the time the discharge is less than the mean
value. It also shows that up to 10% of the time the dis-
charge in access of 300% to 900% of the mean flow. It
means that snow/glacial cover of the area melt or retreats
with respect to the climate and respond in similar way to
seasonal and annual variations in discharge as suggested
by Ferguson [23]. Plotting discharge values as time series
(Figure 4) shows that the highest annual discharge took
place in 1988 and 1992 (320 m3/s) whereas the lowest
discharge of 220 m3/s was recorded in 1982. The results
of the highest annual discharge are in consistent with the
study of Rehman et al. [16]. The trend line indicates a
clear increasing trend in the discharge rate from 1976 to
2000. The same significance trend is shown by the ANOVA
result presented in Table 1.
In order to examine the influence of the rapid snow
melting on Chitral river discharge at Chitral district dur-
ing monsoon period July to September, the hydro-mete-
orological data were carefully compiled into five and
twenty five year periods. The results of the study re-
vealed that mean monthly maximum temperature has a
strong influence on river discharge and impact of rainfall
is relatively small because large bulk of river discharge
occurs during May-September due to snow/glacial melt
and receives a lot of snowfall from winter (Dec-Feb) to
pre-monsoon (April-May). In the present study, 30% of
the time the discharge rate remains above the mean in the
monsoon period (Jul-Sep), while 60% of the time the
discharge is less than the mean in the pre-monsoon
(April-May) period. It means that 10% of the time the
discharge is in reach of 300% to 900% of the mean flow,
indicating the signals of climate change i.e. a rise in wa-
ter yield, river discharge and shortened the snow fall pe-
riod due to increase in mean monthly maximum tem-
perature. Therefore, the present study will be useful for
irrigated agriculture, hydel power generation and water-
shed management sectors for future planning and response
capabilities to disastrous effects of change in hydrologi-
cal cycle on national level.
Figure 2. Monthly flow availability of Chitral River.
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S. Khalid et al. / Natural Science 5 (2013) 987-992 991
Flow Du ration Curve for Chit r al River 1976-2000
99% 95%90% 85%80% 75%70% 65%60% 55%50% 45% 40%35% 30%25% 20%15% 10%5%1%
Percent o f Ti me
Percent of Mean Flow
1976 1977 1978 19791980 1981 1982 1983 1984 19851986 1987 1988
1989 1990 1991 19921993 1994 1995 1996 1997 19981999 2000
Figure 3. Flow duration curve for Chitral River from the period 1976-2000.
Figure 4. Hydrograph of mean annual discharge of Chitral River.
We gratefully acknowledge the PMD and WAPDA for their help in
acquisition of hydro-meteorological data.
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