Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-9nx8b Total loading time: 0.319 Render date: 2023-01-28T15:05:59.165Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Variability of air temperature over a debris-covered glacier in the Nepalese Himalaya

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2016

Jakob F. Steiner*
Institute for Environmental Engineering, Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland
Francesca Pellicciotti
Institute for Environmental Engineering, Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland Department of Geography, University of Northumbria, Newcastle, UK
Correspondence: Jakob F. Steiner <>
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]


HTML view is not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

Estimates of melt from debris-covered glaciers require distributed estimates of meteorological variables and air temperature in particular. Meteorological data are scarce for this environment, and spatial variability of temperature over debris is poorly understood. Based on multiple measurements of air and surface temperature from three ablation seasons (2012–14) we investigate the variability of temperature over Lirung Glacier, Nepal, in order to reveal how air temperature is affected by the debris cover and improve ways to extrapolate it. We investigate how much on-glacier temperature deviates from that predicted from a valley lapse rate (LR), analyse on-glacier LRs and test regression models of air temperature and surface temperature. Air temperature over the debris-covered glacier tongue is much higher than what a valley LR would prescribe, so an extrapolation from off-glacier stations is not applicable. An on-glacier LR is clearly defined at night, with strong correlation, but not during the day, when the warming debris disrupts the elevation control. An alternative to derive daytime air temperature is to use a relationship between air and surface temperature, as previously suggested. We find strong variability during daytime that should be accounted for if these regressions are used for temperature extrapolation.

Creative Commons
Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright © The Author(s) 2016


Ayala, A, Pellicciotti, F and Shea, J (2015) A model of air temperature over melting glaciers: common patterns revealed by observations on three alpine glaciers. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos, 120, 31393157 (doi: 10.1002/2015JD023137)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benn, DI and 9 others (2012) Response of debris-covered glaciers in the Mount Everest region to recent warming, and implications for outburst flood hazards. Earth-Sci. Rev., 114(1–2), 156174 (doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2012.03.008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bolch, T and 11 others (2012) The state and fate of Himalayan glaciers. Science, 336(6079), 310314 (doi: 10.1126/science.1215828)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brock, BW, Mihalcea, C, Kirkbride, MP, Diolaiuti, G, Cutler, MEJ and Smiraglia, C (2010) Meteorology and surface energy fluxes in the 2005–2007 ablation seasons at the Miage debris-covered glacier, Mont Blanc Massif, Italian Alps. J. Geophys. Res., 115(D9), D09106 (doi: 10.1029/2009JD013224)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foster, L, Brock, B, Cutler, M and Diotri, F (2012) A physically based method for estimating supraglacial debris thickness from thermal band remote-sensing data. J. Glaciol., 58(210), 677691 (doi: 10.3189/2012JoG11J194)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fujita, K and Sakai, A (2000) Air temperature environment on the debris-covered area of Lirung Glacier, Langtang Valley, Nepal Himalayas. IAHS Publ. 264 (Workshop at Seattle 2000 – Debris- Covered Glaciers), 8388 Google Scholar
Fujita, K and Sakai, A (2014) Modelling runoff from a Himalayan debris-covered glacier. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 26792694 (doi: 10.5194/hess-18-2679-2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fyffe, CL and 6 others (2014) A distributed energy-balance melt model of an alpine debris-covered glacier. J. Glaciol., 60(221), 587602 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greuell, W and Böhm, R (1998) 2m temperatures along melting mid-latitude glaciers, and implications for the sensitivity of the mass balance to variations in temperature. J. Glaciol., 44(146), 920 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heynen, M, Miles, E, Ragettli, S, Buri, P, Immerzeel, W and Pellicciotti, F (2016) Air temperature variability in a high-elevation Himalayan catchment. Ann. Glaciol., 57(71) (doi: 10.3189/2016AoG71A076)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hudson, D (1966) Fitting segmented curves whose join points have to be estimated. J. Am. Stat. Assoc., 61(316), 10971129 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Immerzeel, WW and 6 others (2014a) High-resolution monitoring of Himalayan glacier dynamics using unmanned aerial vehicles. Remote Sens. Environ., 150, 93103 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Immerzeel, WW, Petersen, L, Ragettli, S and Pellicciotti, F (2014b) The importance of observed gradients of air temperature and precipitation for modeling runoff from a glacierized watershed in the Nepalese Himalayas. Water Resour. Res., 50(3), 22122226 (doi: 10.1002/2013WR014506)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kirkbride, M and Deline, P (2013) The formation of supraglacial debris covers by primary dispersal from transverse englacial debris bands. Earth Surf. Process. Landf., 38(15), 17791792 (doi: 10.1002/esp.3416)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mihalcea, C, Mayer, C, Diolaiuti, G, Lambrecht, A, Smiraglia, C and Tartari, G (2006) Ice ablation and meteorological conditions on the debris-covered area of Baltoro glacier, Karakoram, Pakistan. Ann. Glaciol., 43, 292300 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Minder, JR, Mote, P and Lundquist, J (2010) Surface temperature lapse rates over complex terrain: lessons from the cascade mountains. J. Geophys. Res., 115, D14122 (doi: 10.1029/2009JD013493)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nash, J and Sutcliffe, J (1970) River flow forecasting through conceptual models part I – A discussion of principles. J. Hydrol., 10(3), 282290 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pellicciotti, F, Stephan, C, Miles, ES, Immerzeel, WW and Bolch, T (2015) Mass balance changes of the debris-covered glaciers in the Langtang Himal in Nepal between 1974 and 1999. J. Glaciol., 61(226), 373386 (doi: 10.3189/2015JoG13J237)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Petersen, L and Pellicciotti, F (2011) Spatial and temporal variability of air temperature on a melting glacier: atmospheric controls, extrapolation methods and their effect on melt modeling, Juncal Norte Glacier, Chile. J. Geophys. Res., 116(D23), D23109 (doi: 10.1029/2011JD015842)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Petersen, L, Pellicciotti, F, Juszak, I, Carenzo, M and Brock, B (2013) Suitability of a constant air temperature lapse rate over an alpine glacier: testing the Greuell and Böhm model as an alternative. Ann. Glaciol., 54(63), 120130 (doi: 10.3189/2013AoG63A477)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ragettli, S and 9 others (2015) Unraveling the hydrology of a Himalayan watershed through integration of high resolution insitu data and remote sensing with an advanced simulation model. Adv. Water Res., 78, 94111 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reid, TD, Carenzo, M, Pellicciotti, F and Brock, BW (2012) Including debris cover effects in a distributed model of glacier ablation. J. Geophys. Res.: Atmos., 117(D18) (doi: 10.1029/2012JD017795)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scherler, D, Bookhagen, B and Strecker, MR (2011) Spatially variable response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change affected by debris cover. Nature Geosci., 4(3), 156159 (doi: 10.1038/ngeo1068)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shaw, T, Brock, B, Fyffe, C, Pellicciotti, F, Rutter, N and Diotri, F (2016) Air temperature distribution and energy-balance modelling of a debris-covered glacier. J. Glaciol., 62 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shea, JM and Moore, RD (2010) Prediction of spatially distributed regional-scale fields of air temperature and vapor pressure over mountain glaciers. J. Geophys. Res., 115(D23), D23107 (doi: 10.1029/2010JD014351)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shea, J, Wagnon, P, Immerzeel, W, Biron, R, Brun, F and Pellicciotti, F (2015) A comparative high-altitude meteorological analysis from three catchments in the Nepalese Himalaya. Int. J. Water Res. Dev., 31, 174200 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shiraiwa, T and Yamada, T (1991) Glacier inventory of the Langtang Valley, Nepal Himalayas. Low Temp. Sci., 50, 4772 Google Scholar
Steiner, JF, Pellicciotti, F, Buri, P, Miles, E, Immerzeel, WW and Reid, T (2015) Modeling ice-cliff backwasting on a debris-covered glacier in the Nepalese Himalaya. J. Glaciol., 61(229), 889907 (doi: 10.3189/2015JoG14J194)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhang, Y, Fujita, K, Liu, S and Liu, Q (2011) Distribution of debris thickness and its effect on ice melt at Hailuogou glacier, southeastern Tibetan Plateau, using in situ surveys and ASTER imagery. J. Glaciol., 57(206), 11471157 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
You have Access Open access
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Variability of air temperature over a debris-covered glacier in the Nepalese Himalaya
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Variability of air temperature over a debris-covered glacier in the Nepalese Himalaya
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Variability of air temperature over a debris-covered glacier in the Nepalese Himalaya
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *