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Large surface velocity fluctuations of Biafo Glacier, central Karakoram, at high spatial and temporal resolution from optical satellite images

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Despite global warming and unlike their Himalayan neighbours, glaciers in the Karakoram mountains do not show signs of significant retreat. Here we report high velocity variations of Biafo Glacier, central Karakoram, which occurred between 2001 and 2009 and which indicate considerable dynamics in its flow behaviour. We have generated a dense time series of glacier surface velocities, based on cross-correlation of optical satellite images, which clearly shows seasonal and interannual velocity variations, reaching 50% in some places. The interannual velocity variations resemble the passing of a broad wave of high velocities, with peak velocities during 2005 and some diffusion down-glacier over a period of at least 4 years. High interannual velocity variations are also observed at other glaciers in the vicinity, suggesting a common cause, although these appear to partly comprise longer acceleration phases. Analysis of weather station data provides some indications of meteorological conditions that could have promoted sustained sliding events during this period, but this does not explain the wave-like nature of the acceleration at Biafo Glacier, and the regular, protracted velocity changes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2012

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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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