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INFLUENCE OF SUPRAGLACIAL DEBRIS ON SUMMER ABLATION AND MASS BALANCE IN THE 24K GLACIER, SOUTHEAST TIBETAN PLATEAU

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ABSTRACT.

Many temperate glaciers in the southeast Tibetan Plateau are covered by supraglacial debris in the ablation area. To evaluate the effect of such debris on summer ablation and mass balance, the surface ablation on the 24K Glacier was measured in the summer of 2008. Mean ablation rates varied from 10 to 52 mm/day, strongly correlated to debris thickness. Synchronous observations of air temperature allowed application of a simple degree-day model to calculate ablation rates. Maximum values of both ablation rate and degree-day factors appeared in the middle area of the glacier where the debris layer thickness was about 1 cm. The simulated daily ablation obtained from the degree-day approach showed that the debris layers significantly affected the total summer ablation. The calculated ablation would be increased by 36% of the total ablation with the actual surface debris cover if glacier surface had been assumed to be entirely debris free. If completely covered by 65 cm thick debris in the ablation area, the glacier would experience a 59% decrease in summer ablation. The presence of a debris cover also leads to a change in the ablation gradient in the ablation zone.
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Keywords: ablation; debris cover; southeast Tibetan Plateau; the 24K Glacier

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Publication date: 2010-09-01

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