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Ice records provide a qualitative rather than a quantitative indication of the trend of climate change. Using the bulk aerodynamic method and degree day model, this study quantified ice mass loss attributable to sublimation/evaporation (S/E) and meltwater on the basis of integrated observations (1960–2006) of glacier-related and atmospheric variables in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. During 1961–2005, the average annual mass loss in the ice core was 95.33 ± 20.56 mm w.e. (minimum: 78.97 mm w.e. in 1967, maximum: 146.67 mm w.e. in 2001), while the average ratio of the revised annual ice accumulation was 21.2 ± 7.7% (minimum: 11.0% in 1992, maximum 44.8% in 2000). A quantitative formula expressing the relationship between S/E and air temperature at the monthly scale was established, which could be extended to estimation of S/E changes of other glaciers in other regions. The elevation effect on alpine precipitation determined using revised ice accumulation and instrumental data was found remarkable. This work established a method for quantitative assessment of the temporal variation in ice core mass loss, and advanced the reconstruction of long-term precipitation at high elevations. Importantly, the formula established for reconstruction of S/E from temperature time series data could be used in other regions.
In recent years, researchers have focused on the applications of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) in environmental remote sensing tasks. However, studies on glacier monitoring using UAV technology are relatively scarce, especially for high mountain glacier monitoring. To explore the feasibility of UAV technology for high mountain glaciers, four UAV surveys were deployed on two glaciers of the central Tibetan Plateau. Based on the images retrieved by UAV in 2017 and 2019, orthomosaics and digital elevation models were produced to quantify the length, area and elevation changes in the ablation zone of these two glaciers at different times. Additionally, we utilized several Landsat scenes to derive glacier changes over the last 30 years and combined these with the UAV data to assess the advantages and disadvantages of UAV technology in mountain glacier monitoring.
In glaciology, snow–firn temperature at 10 m is considered a representation of the mean annual air temperature at the surface (MAAT) of the studied site. Although MAAT is an important parameter in ice-sheet investigations, it has not been widely measured in Antarctica. To measure the 10 m snow–firn temperature in Antarctica, a shallow hot-point drill system is designed. In this simple and lightweight system, a hot-point drill can melt boreholes with a diameter of 34 mm in the snow–firn to a depth of 30 m and a temperature sensors string can measure the borehole temperature precisely. In the 2018/19 field season, 16 boreholes along the Zhongshan–Dome A traverse were drilled, and the borehole temperature was measured. Although certain problems existed pertaining to the hot-point drill, a total depth of ~244 m was successfully drilled at an average penetration rate of ~10 m h−1. After borehole drilling, ~12–15 h were generally required for the borehole to achieve thermal equilibrium with the surroundings. Preliminary results demonstrated that the 10 m snow–firn temperature along the traverse route was affected by the increasing altitude and latitude, and it decreased gradually with an increase in the distance from Zhongshan station.
Glacier mass loss in Alaska has implications for global sea level rise, fresh water input into the Gulf of Alaska and terrestrial fresh water resources. We map all glaciers (>4000 km2) on the Kenai Peninsula, south central Alaska, for the years 1986, 1995, 2005 and 2016, using satellite images. Changes in surface elevation and volume are determined by differencing a digital elevation model (DEM) derived from Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer stereo images in 2005 from the Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar DEM of 2014. The glacier area shrunk by 543 ± 123 km2 (12 ± 3%) between 1986 and 2016. The region-wide mass-balance rate between 2005 and 2014 was −0.94 ± 0.12 m w.e. a−1 (−3.84 ± 0.50 Gt a−1), which is almost twice as negative than found for earlier periods in previous studies indicating an acceleration in glacier mass loss in this region. Area-averaged mass changes were most negative for lake-terminating glaciers (−1.37 ± 0.13 m w.e. a−1), followed by land-terminating glaciers (−1.02 ± 0.13 m w.e. a−1) and tidewater glaciers (−0.45 ± 0.14 m w.e. a−1). Unambiguous attribution of the observed acceleration in mass loss over the last decades is hampered by the scarcity of observational data, especially at high elevation, and by large interannual variability.
Sources and implications of black carbon (BC) and mineral dust (MD) on two glaciers on the central Tibetan Plateau were estimated based on in situ measurements and modeling. The results indicated that BC and MD accounted for ~11 ± 1% and 4 ± 0% of the albedo reduction relative to clean snow, while the radiative forcing varied between 11 and 196 and 1–89 W m−2, respectively. Assessment of BC and MD contributions to the glacier melt can reach up 88 to 434 and 35 to 187 mm w.e., respectively, contributing ~9–23 and 4–10% of the total glacier melt. A footprint analysis indicated that BC and MD deposited on the glaciers originated mainly from the Middle East, Central Asia, North China and South Asia during the study period. Moreover, a potentially large fraction of BC may have originated from local and regional fossil fuel combustion. This study suggests that BC and MD will enhance glacier melt and provides a scientific basis for regional mitigation efforts.
Light-absorbing impurities (LAIs, e.g. black carbon (BC), organic carbon (OC), mineral dust (MD)) deposited on snow cover reduce albedo and accelerate its melting. Northern Xinjiang (NX) is an arid and semi-arid inland region, where snowmelt leads to frequent floods that have been a serious threat to local ecological security. There is still a lack of quantitative assessments of the effects of LAIs on snowmelt in the region. This study investigates spatial variations of LAIs in snow and its effect on snow albedo, radiative forcing (RF) and snowmelt across NX. Results showed that concentrations of BC, OC (only water-insoluble OC), MD ranged from 32 to 8841 ng g−1, 77 to 8568 ng g−1 and 0.46 to 236 µg g−1, respectively. Weather Research and Forecasting Chemistry model suggested that residential emission was the largest source of BC. Snow, Ice, and Aerosol Radiative modelling showed that the average contribution of BC and MD to snow albedo reduction was 17 and 3%, respectively. RF caused by BC significantly exceeded RF caused by MD. In different scenarios, changes in snow cover duration (SCD) caused by BC and MD decreased by 1.36 ± 0.61 to 6.12 ± 3.38 d. Compared with MD, BC was the main dominant factor in reducing snow albedo and SCD across NX.
Cryoconite is a dark-coloured granular sediment that contains biological and mineralogical components, and it plays a pivotal role in geochemistry, carbon cycling and glacier mass balance. In this work, we collected cryoconite samples from Laohugou Glacier No. 12 (LHG) on the north-eastern Tibetan Plateau during the summer of 2015 and measured the spectral albedo. To explore the impacts of this sediment on surface ablation, the ice melting differences between the cryoconite-free (removed) ice and the intact layers were compared. The results showed that the mean concentrations of black carbon (BC), organic carbon (OC) and total iron (Fe) in the LHG cryoconite were 1.28, 11.18 and 39.94 mg g−1, respectively. BC was found to play a stronger role in solar light adsorption than OC and free Fe. In addition, ice covered by cryoconite exhibited the lowest mean reflectance (i.e., <0.1). Compared with the cryoconite-free ice surface, cryoconite effectively absorbed solar energy and enhanced glacial melting at a rate of 2.27–3.28 cm d−1, and free Fe, BC and OC were estimated to contribute 1.01, 0.99 and 0.76 cm d−1, respectively. This study provides important insights for understanding the role of cryoconite in the glacier mass balance of the northern Tibetan Plateau.
Dissolved organic matter (DOM) in mountain glaciers is an important source of carbon for downstream aquatic systems, and its impact is expected to increase due to the increased melting rate of glaciers. We present a comprehensive study of Laohugou glacier no. 12 (LHG) at the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau to characterize the DOM composition and sources by analyzing surface fresh snow, granular ice samples, and snow pit samples which covered a whole year cycle of 2014/15. Excitation–emission matrix fluorescence spectroscopy analysis of the DOM with parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC) identified four components, including a microbially humic-like component (C1), two protein-like components (C2 and C3) and a terrestrial humic-like component (C4). The use of Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) showed that DOM from all these samples was dominated by CHO and CHON molecular formulas, mainly corresponding to lipids and aliphatic/proteins compounds, reflecting the presence of significant amounts of microbially derived and/or deposited biogenic DOM. The molecular compositions of DOM showed more CHON compounds in granular ice than in fresh snow, likely suggesting newly formed DOM from microbes during snowmelting.
We analyzed a 2-year time series of meteorological data (January 2011–December 2012) from three automatic weather stations on Laohugou glacier No. 12, western Qilian Mountains, China. Air temperature, humidity and incoming radiation were significantly correlated between the three sites, while wind speed and direction were not. In this work, we focus on the effects of clouds on other meteorological parameters and on glacier melt. On an average, ~18% of top-of-atmosphere shortwave radiation was attenuated by the clear-sky atmosphere, and clouds attenuated a further 12%. Most of the time the monthly average increases in net longwave radiation caused by clouds were larger than decreases in net shortwave radiation but there was a tendency to lose energy during the daytime when melting was most intense. Air temperature and wind speed related to turbulent heat flux were found to suppress glacier melt during cloudy periods, while increased water vapor pressure during cloudy days could enhance glacier melt by reducing energy loss by latent heat. From these results, we have increased the physical understanding of the significance of cloud effects on continental glaciers.
The central Himalaya can be regarded as an ideal site for developing a long-term ice core dust record to reflect the environmental signals from regional to semi-hemispheric scales. Here we present a dust record from segments of a 108.83-m ice core recovered from the East Rongbuk (ER) Glacier (27°59â€²N, 86°55â€²E; 6518Â m a.s.l.) on the northeast slope of Mt. Qomolangma (Everest) in the central Himalaya, covering the period AD 600–1960. Due to rapidly layer thinning and coarse sampling, we primarily discuss the changes in the dust record since AD 1500 in this paper. Results show a significant positive relationship between the dust concentration and reconstructed air temperatures during this period, suggesting a likely cold–humid and warm–dry climatic pattern in the dust source regions, namely Central Asia. This is associated with the variability in the strength of the westerlies and its corresponding precipitation.
High-resolution δ18O records from a Geladaindong mountain ice core spanning the period 1477-1982 were used to investigate past temperature variations in the Yangtze River source region of the central Tibetan Plateau (TP). Annual ice-core δ18O records were positively correlated with temperature data from nearby meteorological stations, suggesting that the δ18O record represented the air temperature in the region. A generally increasing temperature trend over the past 500 years was identified, with amplified warming during the 20th century. A colder stage, spanning before the 1850s, was found to represent the Little Ice Age with colder periods occurring during the 1470s–1500s, 1580s–1660s, 1700s–20s and 1770s–1840s. Compared with other temperature records from the TP and the Northern Hemisphere, the Geladaindong ice-core record suggested that the regional climate of the central TP experienced a stronger warming trend during the 20th century than other regions. In addition, a positive relationship between the Geladaindong δ18 O values and the North Atlantic Oscillation index, combined with a wavelet analysis of δ18 O records, indicated that there was a potential atmospheric teleconnection between the North Atlantic and the central TP.
Runoff estimation in high-altitude glacierized basins is an important issue on the Tibetan Plateau. To investigate glacier mass balance, runoff and water balance in the Qugaqie basin and Zhadang sub-basin in the southern Tibetan Plateau, two glacier models and three snow models were integrated into the spatially distributed hydrological model JAMS/J2K. The results showed that the temperature index method simulated glacier runoff better than the degree-day factor method. The simulated glacier melt volume in the Qugaqie basin in 2006, 2007 and 2008 contributed 58%, 50% and 41%, respectively, to its total runoff. In the Zhadang basin, the glacier melt volume contributed 78% and 66% to its runoff during 2007 and 2008, respectively. Compared with the observation results, the simulated glacier mass balance showed similar variations with slightly higher values, indicating an underestimation of glacier melt volume. The water balance simulation in the upstream areas (705–874 mm) was comparable to that in the downstream areas (1051–1502 mm) and generally lower than the observed results. In both basins, the glacier mass-balance simulation was relatively accurate in the melt season compared to the other seasons.
Climate variables that control the annual cycle of the surface energy and mass balance on Zhadang glacier in the central Tibetan Plateau were examined over a 2 year period using a physically based energy-balance model forced by routine meteorological data. The modelled results agree with measured values of albedo, incoming longwave radiation, surface temperature and surface level of the glacier. For the whole observation period, the radiation component dominated (82%) the total surface energy heat fluxes. This was followed by turbulent sensible (10%) and latent heat (6%) fluxes. Subsurface heat flux represented a very minor proportion (2%) of the total heat flux. The sensitivity of specific mass balance was examined by perturbations of temperature (±1 K), relative humidity (±20%) and precipitation (±20%). The results indicate that the specific mass balance is more sensitive to changes in precipitation than to other variables. The main seasonal variations in the energy balance were in the two radiation components (net shortwave radiation and net longwave radiation) and these controlled whether surface melting occurred. A dramatic difference in summer mass balance between 2010 and 2011 indicates that the glacier surface mass balance was closely related to precipitation seasonality and form (proportion of snowfall and rainfall).
In order to apportion the dust sources of mountain glaciers in western China, the Sr-Nd isotopic compositions of insoluble particles were determined in snow samples collected from 13 sites. The combined plot of 87Sr/86Sr and εNd(0) demonstrates a distinctive geographic pattern over western China, which can be classified into three regions from north to south. Samples from the Altai mountains show the lowest 87Sr/86Sr ratio and the highest εNd(0) value, similar to the data of deserts in the north of China such as the Gurbantunggut desert. Samples from the southern Tibetan Plateau (TP) and Himalaya show the highest 87Sr/86Sr and lowest εNd(0) values, resembling the local and regional dust sources found in the southern TP and Himalaya-India region. Samples from the Tien Shan and northern Tibetan Plateau exhibit intermediate 87Sr/86Sr and εNd(0) values, similar to the data reported for the northern margin of the TP (NM_TP). However, three sampling sites, JMYZ (Jiemayangzong) located in the Himalaya and ZD (Zadang) and YL (Yulong) located in the southeast TP, presented distinctive Sr-Nd isotopic signatures typical of the NM_TP, suggesting potential long-range and high-altitude dust transport across the TP.
For a better understanding of snow metamorphosing processes and more precise snow-ice-core interpretations, it is necessary to know the extent of microscale spatial variability of isotopic and chemical distributions in a snowpack. This work presents an investigation on the horizontal heterogeneity of the isotopic and chemical distributions in a firn pack on East Rongbuk Glacier at Qomolangma (Mount Everest), central Himalaya. One pit wall of 1.2 ×1.2m2 at 6520ma.s.l. was sampled at intervals of 10 cm in a matrix pattern with a total of 144 samples collected. All the samples were analyzed for δ18O and ionic concentrations. Small horizontal isotopic and large chemical heterogeneities were found. The averaged coefficient of variation (CV) of the twelve 10 cm thick layers for δ18O is 0.052, and in the whole snow thickness of 120 cm it is 0.016, which is in the range of analytic precision and thus indicates complete homogeneity. However, the ionic distribution shows considerable heterogeneity. The averaged CV values of the 10 cm thick layers for ionic concentrations vary in the range 0.628–1.477 depending on the ions. Based on these CV values, the heterogeneity sequence is: Mg2+> Ca2+> K+> Na+> Cl–> SO42–> PO43–> NO3–> NH4+. The averaged CV values for all the ions, except for NH4+, decrease with increasing snow thickness, although the decreasing rates and extents are different. However, the CV values of different ions are still large and in the range 0.183–1.116 when the snow thickness increases to 120 cm. The heterogeneity sequence becomes: K+> Mg2+> Ca2+> NH4+> Na+> Cl–> PO43–> NO3–> SO42–. The CV average change with thickness is different for NH4+. From 20 to 100 cm it increases slightly with increasing thickness, but all the values are lower than the average of 10cm thick layers.
To investigate the effects of depositional and post-depositional processes on chemical records in the snowpack, seven monthly snow pits were sampled at the same site on the pass of Zhadang (ZD) glacier (30˚28.079' N, 90˚39.032' E; 5800ma.s.l.), Nyainqentanglha mountain, southern Tibetan Plateau, between April and October 2006. Meteorological data from an automatic weather station at the sampling site showed that the annual mean air temperature was –5.6˚C on the pass and that monthly air temperature was above 0˚C from June to August, indicating that snowmelt could occur in this high-elevation region during the summer. An analysis of δ18O and major-ion variability in snow pits suggests that glaciochemical recordswere influenced by both meltwater percolation in mid-summer (July and August) and seasonal deposition. Less negative δ18O values and high concentrations of major ions occurred during the spring. The trends of δ18O variations in the ZD snow pits were consistent with those in precipitation sampled at the nearby Nam Co station for all months except for July and August, suggesting that climate signals are well preserved in the snow-pit δ18O records during the non-summer months. However, these climate signals were destroyed by strong percolation of meltwater during mid-summer.
Annual-layer thickness data, spanning AD 1534–2001, from an ice core from East Rongbuk Col on Qomolangma (Mount Everest, Himalaya) yield an age–depth profile that deviates systematically from a constant accumulation-rate analytical model. The profile clearly shows that the mean accumulation rate has changed every 50–100 years. A numerical model was developed to determine the magnitude of these multi-decadal-scale rates. The model was used to obtain a time series of annual accumulation. The mean annual accumulation rate decreased from ∼0.8 m ice equivalent in the 1500s to ∼0.3 m in the mid-1800s. From ∼1880 to ∼1970 the rate increased. However, it has decreased since ∼1970. Comparison with six other records from the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau shows that the changes in accumulation in East Rongbuk Col are broadly consistent with a regional pattern over much of the Plateau. This suggests that there may be an overarching mechanism controlling precipitation and mass balance over this area. However, a record from Dasuopu, only 125 km northwest of Qomolangma and 700 m higher than East Rongbuk Col, shows a maximum in accumulation during the 1800s, a time during which the East Rongbuk Col and Tibetan Plateau ice-core and tree-ring records show a minimum. This asynchroneity may be due to altitudinal or seasonal differences in monsoon versus westerly moisture sources or complex mountain meteorology.
Glacier and lake variations in the Yamzhog Yumco basin in southern Tibet were studied by integrating series of spatial data from topographic maps and Landsat images at three different times: 1980, 1988/90 and 2000. The results indicate that the total glacier area has decreased from 218 km2 in 1980 to 215 km2 in 2000, a total reduction of 3 km2 (i.e. a 1.5% decrease). Glacier recession rates were clearly larger in the 1990s than the 1980s due to the warmer climate. The total lake area decreased by about 67 km2 during 1980–90 and increased by 32 km2 during 1990–2000. It is suggested that change of lake area in the basin was rapid and most likely caused primarily by the change in precipitation and evaporation in the basin, and secondarily by the increased water supply from melting glaciers.