Glacier melting and precipitation trends detected by surface area changes in Himalayan ponds
Abstract. Climatic time series for high-elevation Himalayan regions are decidedly scarce. Although glacier shrinkage is now sufficiently well described, the changes in precipitation and temperature at these elevations are less clear. This contribution shows that the surface area variations of unconnected glacial ponds, i.e. ponds not directly connected to glacier ice, but that may have a glacier located in their hydrological basin, can be considered as suitable proxies for detecting past changes in the main hydrological components of the water balance. On the south side of Mt Everest, glacier melt and precipitation have been found to be the main drivers of unconnected pond surface area changes (detected mainly with Landsat imagery). In general, unconnected ponds have decreased significantly by approximately 10 ± 5 % in terms of surface area over the last 50 years (1963–2013 period) in the study region. Here, an increase in precipitation occurred until the mid-1990s followed by a decrease until recent years. Until the 1990s, glacier melt was constant. An increase occurred in the early 2000s, while a declining trend in maximum temperature has caused a reduction in the glacier melt during recent years.