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Glacier variations and climate change in the central Himalaya over the past few decades

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Glacier variation is one of many indicators of climate change. Repeat measurements of the glacier terminus positions for selected glaciers in the central Himalaya document that they have been in a state of continuous retreat over the past few decades. Since the 1960s the average retreat rate on the north slope of Qomolangma (Mount Everest) is 5.5–9.5 m a−1 and on Xixiabangma it is 4.0–5.2 m a−1. Many glaciers on the south slope of the central Himalaya have been in retreat, and recently their retreat rate has accelerated. Ice-core studies show that the annual accumulation on these glaciers has fluctuated, but over the last century it has declined. It decreased rapidly in the 1960s and has remained consistently below the long-term mean thereafter. Meteorological station records indicate that the annual mean temperature in the region has slowly increased, particularly during the summer months. The strongest warming has occurred in the last 30 years. These data suggest that the current glacier retreat is due to the combined effect of reduced precipitation and warmer temperatures, and, if these conditions continue, the glaciers in the region will continue to shrink.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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