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Estimate of Ablation Rate of Glacier Ice under a Supraglacial Debris Layer

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Abstract:

The ablation rate under a debris layer is very difficult to measure directly at debris-covered glaciers, because the surface is highly heterogeneous, and the ablation rate varies tremendously from place to place. Heat budget considerations with a debris layer on top of glacier ice suggested that ‘thermal resistance’ of the debris layer could be estimated from surface temperature and the heat fluxes at the debris surface, and the ablation rate of the underlying glacier ice from the thermal resistance and meteorological data. The method was tested at the Lirung Glacier in Langtang Valley, Nepal Himalayas, using the thermal band of LANDSAT satellite for estimating surface temperature distribution of the debris top surface. The amount of melt water thus estimated was compatible with the observed discharge data from the glacier basin for periods of the monsoon season in 1985 and the pre-monsoon to the monsoon season in 1996. The investigation also revealed that the amount of discharge was much larger than the amount of precipitation over the basin, and it was suggested that the melt water from the debris-covered glacier contributes significantly to the river flow as a result of the shrinkage of the glacier.

Keywords: Nepal Himalayas; ablation rate; supraglacial debris; surface temperature; thermal resistance

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0435-3676.1999.00097.x

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Hydrospheric–Atmospheric Sciences, Nagoya University, Japan, 2: Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Ministry of Science and Technology, His Majesty's Government of Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal

Publication date: 1999-12-01

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