Quaternary glaciation of Mount Everest

Lewis A. Owen, Ruth Alison Joyce Robinson, Doug I Benn, Robert C. Finkel, Nicole K. Davis, Chaolu Yi, Jaakko Putkonen, Dewen Li, Andrew S. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Quaternary glacial history of the Rongbuk valley on the northern slopes of Mount Everest is examined using field mapping, geomorphic and sedimentological methods, and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and Be-10 terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) dating. Six major sets of moraines are present representing significant glacier advances or still-stands. These date to >330 ka (Tingri moraine), >41 ka (Dzakar moraine), 24-27 ka (Jilong moraine), 14-17 ka (Rongbuk moraine), 8-2 ka (Samdupo moraines) and similar to 1.6 ka (Xarlungnama moraine), and each is assigned to a distinct glacial stage named after the moraine. The Samdupo glacial stage is subdivided into Samdupo 1 (6.8-7.7 ka) and Samdupo 11 (similar to 2.4 ka). Comparison with OSL and TCN defined ages on moraines on the southern slopes of Mount Everest in the Khumbu Himal show that glaciations across the Everest massif were broadly synchronous. However, unlike the Khumbu Himal, no early Holocene glacier advance is recognized in the Rongbuk valley. This suggests that the Khumbu Himal may have received increased monsoon precipitation in the early Holocene to help increase positive glacier mass balances, while the Rongbuk valley was too sheltered to receive monsoon moisture during this time and glaciers could not advance. Comparison of equilibrium-line altitude depressions for glacial stages across Mount Everest reveals asymmetric patterns of glacier retreat that likely reflects greater glacier sensitivity to climate change on the northern slopes, possibly due to precipitation starvation. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1412-1433
Number of pages22
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume28
Issue number15-16
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

Keywords

  • EQUILIBRIUM-LINE ALTITUDES
  • REGENERATIVE-DOSE PROTOCOL
  • NORTHERN PAKISTAN
  • LANDSCAPE EVOLUTION
  • PAST GLACIATIONS
  • TIBETAN PLATEAU
  • RONGBUK VALLEY
  • HUNZA VALLEY
  • ICE-SHEET
  • LUMINESCENCE

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