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Glacier surface-area changes in Sagarmatha national park, Nepal, in the second half of the 20th century, by comparison of historical maps

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We investigate variations in the surface area of glaciers in Sagarmatha national park, Nepal, during the second half of the 20th century through comparison of a map applicable to the late 1950s with the official map of Nepal in the early 1990s. The comparison reveals a slight overall decrease in glacier area (by 4.9%, from 403.9 to 384.6 km2), a result which, though potentially subject to errors arising from cartographic interpretation, is in line with the area reductions found by other studies of Asian glaciers. We find that the areas of some individual glaciers, the largest situated at higher altitudes, increased during the study period. This was most apparent for the glaciers oriented to the south, with the increase occurring mainly in the glacier accumulation zones while the fronts tended to recede. Meanwhile, the smaller glaciers, situated lower and on steep basins, experienced a reduction. For the smaller glaciers, the sections most affected by change were the accumulation zones, and these glaciers showed a tendency for the front to advance. In this region there is a lack of climate data for high altitudes. Nevertheless, observations from stations situated around the park suggest that, alongside temperature variations which are often considered the primary factor eliciting glacier response, changes in precipitation play a significant role.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2008

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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