Glacial lakes exacerbate Himalayan glacier mass loss

Owen King, Atanu Bhattacharya, Rakesh Bhambri, Tobias Bolch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Heterogeneous glacier mass loss has occurred across High Mountain Asia on a multi-decadal timescale. Contrasting climatic settings influence glacier behaviour at the regional scale, but high intra-regional variability in mass loss rates points to factors capable of amplifying glacier recession in addition to climatic change along the Himalaya. Here we examine the influence of surface debris cover and glacial lakes on glacier mass loss across the Himalaya since the 1970s. We find no substantial difference in the mass loss of debris-covered and clean-ice glaciers over our study period, but substantially more negative (-0.13 to -0.29 m w.e.a-1) mass balances for lake-terminating glaciers, in comparison to land-terminating glaciers, with the largest differences occurring after 2000. Despite representing a minor portion of the total glacier population (~10 %), the recession of lake-terminating glaciers accounted for up to 32 % of mass loss in different sub-regions. The continued expansion of established glacial lakes, and the preconditioning of land-terminating glaciers for new lake development increases the likelihood of enhanced ice mass loss from the region in coming decades; a scenario not currently considered in regional ice mass loss projections.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18145
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Glacier
  • Himalaya

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