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Numerical simulations of Gurenhekou glacier on the Tibetan Plateau

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We investigate the impact of climate change on Gurenhekou glacier, southern Tibetan Plateau, which is representative of the tens of thousands of mountain glaciers in the region. We apply a three-dimensional, thermomechanically coupled full-Stokes model to simulate the evolution of the glacier. The steep and rugged bedrock geometry requires use of such a flow model. We parameterize the temperature and surface mass-balance (SMB) uncertainties using nearby automatic weather and meteorological stations, 6 year measured SMB data and an energy-balance model for a nearby glacier. Summer air temperature increased at 0.02 K a–1 over the past 50 years, and the glacier has retreated at an average rate of 8.3 m a–1. Prognostic simulations suggest an accelerated annual average retreat rate of ∼9.1 m a–1 along the central flowline for the next 25 years under continued steady warming. However, regional climate models suggest a marked increase in warming rate over Tibet during the 21st century, and this rate causes about a 0.9±0.3% a–1 loss of glaciated area and 1.1±0.6% a–1 shrinkage of glacier volume. These results, the rather high warming rates predicted and the small sizes of most Tibetan glaciers, suggest that significant numbers of glaciers will be lost in the region during the 21st century.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2014-02-01

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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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