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Spatial patterns of Holocene glacier advance and retreat in Central Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Summer Rupper*
Brigham Young University, Department of Geological Sciences, S389 ESC, Provo, UT 84602, USA
Gerard Roe
University of Washington, Department of Earth and Space Sciences and Quaternary Research Center, Seattle, WA, USA
Alan Gillespie
University of Washington, Department of Earth and Space Sciences and Quaternary Research Center, Seattle, WA, USA
Corresponding author. E-mail (S. Rupper).


Glaciers in the southern Himalayas advanced in the early Holocene despite an increase in incoming summer solar insolation at the top of the atmosphere. These glacier advances are in contrast to the smaller alpine glaciers in the western and northern regions of Central Asia. Two different glacier mass-balance models are used to reconcile this Holocene glacier history with climate by quantifying the change in equilibrium-line altitudes (ELA) for simulated changes in Holocene climate. Both ELA models clearly show that the lowering of ELAs in the southern Himalayas is largely due to a decrease in summer temperatures, and that an increase in monsoonal precipitation accounts for less than 30% of the total ELA changes. The decrease in summer temperatures is a dynamic response to the changes in solar insolation, resulting in both a decrease in incoming shortwave radiation at the surface due to an increase in cloudiness and an increase in evaporative cooling. In the western and northern zones of Central Asia, both ELA models show a rise in ELAs in response to a general increase in summer temperatures. This increase in temperatures in the more northern regions is a direct radiative response to the increase in summer solar insolation.

Research Article
University of Washington

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