Glacier mass changes on the Tibetan Plateau 2003-2009 derived from ICESat laser altimetry measurements

N. Neckel, J. Kropáček, T. Bolch, V. Hochschild

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176 Citations (Scopus)


Glacier mass changes are a valuable indicator of climate variability and monsoon oscillation on the underexplored Tibetan Plateau. In this study data from the Ice Cloud and Elevation Satellite (ICESat) is employed to estimate elevation and mass changes of glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau between 2003 and 2009. In order to get a representative sample size of ICESat measurements, glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau were grouped into eight climatically homogeneous sub-regions. Most negative mass budgets of - 0.77 ± 0.35 m w.e. a -1 were found for the Qilian Mountains and eastern Kunlun Mountains while a mass gain of + 0.37 ± 0.25 m w.e. a-1 was found in the westerly-dominated north-central part of the Tibetan Plateau. A total annual mass budget of - 15.6 ± 10.1 Gt a-1 was estimated for the eight sub-regions sufficiently covered by ICESat data which represents ∼80% of the glacier area on the Tibetan Plateau. 13.9 ± 8.9 Gt a-1 (or 0.04 ± 0.02 mm a-1 sea-level equivalent) of the total mass budget contributed 'directly' to the global sea-level rise while 1.7 ± 1.9 Gt a-1 drained into endorheic basins on the plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Article number014009
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • endorheic lakes
  • glacier mass changes
  • ICESat
  • Tibetan Plateau


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