Article

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

  • Nature Geoscience volume 10, pages 668673 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/ngeo2999
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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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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).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble INP, IGE, F-38000 Grenoble, France

    • Fanny Brun
    •  & Patrick Wagnon
  2. LEGOS, Université de Toulouse, CNES, CNRS, IRD, UPS, F-31400 Toulouse, France

    • Fanny Brun
    •  & Etienne Berthier
  3. Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, PO Box 1047, 0316 Oslo, Norway

    • Andreas Kääb
    •  & Désirée Treichler

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Contributions

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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fanny Brun.

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