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A spatially resolved estimate of High Mountain Asia glacier mass balances from 2000 to 2016

An Author Correction to this article was published on 18 June 2018

This article has been updated

Abstract

High Mountain Asia hosts the largest glacier concentration outside the polar regions. These glaciers are important contributors to streamflow in one of the most populated areas of the world. Past studies have used methods that can provide only regionally averaged glacier mass balances to assess the glacier contribution to rivers and sea level rise. Here we compute the mass balance for about 92% of the glacierized area of High Mountain Asia using time series of digital elevation models derived from satellite stereo-imagery. We calculate a total mass change of −16.3 ± 3.5 Gt yr−1 (−0.18 ± 0.04 m w.e. yr−1) between 2000 and 2016, which is less negative than most previous estimates. Region-wide mass balances vary from −4.0 ± 1.5 Gt yr−1 (−0.62 ± 0.23 m w.e. yr−1) in Nyainqentanglha to +1.4 ± 0.8 Gt yr−1 (+0.14 ± 0.08 m w.e. yr−1) in Kunlun, with large intra-regional variability of individual glacier mass balances (standard deviation within a region 0.20 m w.e. yr−1). Specifically, our results shed light on the Nyainqentanglha and Pamir glacier mass changes, for which contradictory estimates exist in the literature. They provide crucial information for the calibration of the models used for projecting glacier response to climatic change, as these models do not capture the pattern, magnitude and intra-regional variability of glacier changes at present.

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Figure 1: High Mountain Asia major drainage basins.
Figure 2: Glacier elevation changes and mass balance for High Mountain Asia (2000–2016).
Figure 3: Altitudinal distribution of glacier elevation change.

Change history

  • 18 June 2018

    In the version of this Article originally published, the symbols for 'greater than' and 'less than or equal to' were inverted in the equation that defines σΔz. The original (1) and corrected (2) versions of the equation are shown below. This error did not affect the calculation of the uncertainties. In addition, erroneous values that were a remnant of an earlier version of the authors' work and higher than the final values calculated were reported for the uncertainties on ASTER estimates in Supplementary Table 4. Table 1 below shows the corrected values in bold font. These errors have now been corrected in the online versions of the Article.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Vijay, O. King and M. Rankl for sharing elevation difference maps and glacier outlines, J. Shea, T. Bolch and W. Immerzeel for sharing basin outlines and inventories and B. Marzeion and G. Cogley for sharing gridded outputs of their estimates. We thank A. Dehecq for insightful comments and discussions. This work could not have been performed without the GLIMS project (in particular J. Kargel and B. Raup) that allowed the population of a vast archive of ASTER stereo images over glaciers. We thank the Ames Stereo Pipeline development and support team for the implementation of ASTER sensor geometry. Most of the computations presented in this paper were performed using the Froggy platform of the CIMENT infrastructure (https://ciment.ujf-grenoble.fr), which is supported by the Rhône-Alpes region (GRANT CPER07_13 CIRA), the OSUG@2020 labex (reference ANR10 LABX56) and the Equip@Meso project (reference ANR-10-EQPX-29-01) of the Programme Investissements d’Avenir supervised by the Agence Nationale pour la Recherche. This work was supported by the French Space Agency (CNES) and the Programme National de Télédétection Spatiale grant PNTS-2016-01. F.B. and P.W. acknowledge funding from the French Service d’Observation GLACIOCLIM and ANR-13-SENV-0005-04/05-PRESHINE. A.K. and D.T. acknowledge funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement no. 320816 and the ESA project Glaciers_cci (4000109873/14/I-NB).

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F.B., E.B. and P.W. designed the study. F.B. performed the ASTER DEM analysis with inputs from E.B. D.T. and A.K. provided the updated ICESat analysis. All authors interpreted the results. F.B. led the writing of the paper and all other co-authors contributed to it.

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Correspondence to Fanny Brun.

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Brun, F., Berthier, E., Wagnon, P. et al. A spatially resolved estimate of High Mountain Asia glacier mass balances from 2000 to 2016. Nature Geosci 10, 668–673 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2999

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