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Glacier changes in the Koshi River basin, central Himalaya, from 1976 to 2009, derived from remote-sensing imagery

  • Donghui Shangguan (a1) (a2), Shiyin Liu (a1), Yongjian Ding (a1), Lizong Wu (a1), Wei Deng (a3), Wanqin Guo (a1), Yuan Wang (a1), Junli Xu (a1), Xiaojun Yao (a1), Zhilong Guo (a1) and Wanwan Zhu (a1)...
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.


We use remote-sensing and GIS technologies to monitor glacier changes in the Koshi River basin, central Himalaya. The results indicate that in 2009 there were 2061 glaciers in this region, with a total area of 3225 ±90.3 km2. This glacier population is divided into 1290 glaciers, with a total area of 1961 ±54.9 km2, on the north side of the Himalaya (NSH), and 771 glaciers, with a total area of 1264 ± 35.4 km2, on the south side of the Himalaya (SSH). From 1976 to 2009, glacier area in the basin decreased by about 19±5.6% (0.59±0.17%a–1). Glacier reduction was slightly faster on SSH (20.3 ±5.6%) than on NSH (18.8±5.6%). The maximum contribution to glacier area loss came from glaciers within the 1-5 km2 area interval, which accounted for 32% of total area loss between 1976 and 2009. The number of glaciers in the Koshi River catchment decreased by 145 between 1976 and 2009. Glacier area on SSH decreased at a rate of 6.2 ±3.2% (0.68 ±0.36% a–1), faster than on NSH, where the rate was 2.5 ±3.2% (0.27±0.36% a–1) during 2000-09. Based on records from Tingri weather station, we infer that temperature increase and precipitation decrease were the main causes of glacier thinning and retreat during the 1976-2000 period. Glacier retreat during the 2000-09 period appears to be controlled by temperature increase, since precipitation increase over this period did not offset ice losses to surface melting.

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