Human life and the entire ecosystem of South East Asia depend upon the monsoon climate, its linkage to major rivers and its predictability. The headwater areas of the Yellow River, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra and Ganges, are located in the Tibetan Plateau. However, estimates of the Plateau water balance rely on sparse and scarce observations that cannot provide the required accuracy, spatial density and temporal frequency.

Integrated use of satellite and ground observations is necessary to support water resources management in SE Asia and to clarify the interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere over the Tibetan Plateau in the Asian monsoon system.


The goal of this project is two-fold:

  • To construct out of existing ground measurements and current / future satellites an observing system to determine and monitor the water yield of the Plateau, i.e. how much water is finally going into the seven major rivers of SE Asia
  • To monitor the evolution of snow, vegetation cover, surface wetness and surface fluxes and analyze the linkage with convective activity, (extreme) precipitation events and the Asian Monsoon.


A Database Management System will be put in place in Lhasa and operated by a research organisation. It is highly likely that the system will remain in operation beyond project completion. These observations will contribute to clarify the role of Plateau hydrology in the onset and intensity of the Asian Monsoon and in intense precipitation. The time-series of hydrological satellite data products will be used to demonstrate an Early Warning system on droughts and one on floods. 


The project will deliver a prototype Water Balance Monitoring System and a three year data set including observations of the water balance terms on weekly and monthly basis. The system will reply on an existing and expanding network of observatories and on spaceborne observing systems for which data continuity is guaranteed.