Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
The Cryosphere, 9, 1105–1128, 2015
The Cryosphere, 9, 1105–1128, 2015

Research article 27 May 2015

Research article | 27 May 2015

Modelling glacier change in the Everest region, Nepal Himalaya

J. M. Shea1, W. W. Immerzeel1,2, P. Wagnon1,3, C. Vincent4, and S. Bajracharya1 J. M. Shea et al.
  • 1International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • 2Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 3IRD/UJF – Grenoble 1/CNRS/G-INP, LTHE UMR 5564, LGGE UMR 5183, Grenoble, 38402, France
  • 4UJF – Grenoble 1/CNRS, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE) UMR 5183, Grenoble, 38041, France

Abstract. In this study, we apply a glacier mass balance and ice redistribution model to examine the sensitivity of glaciers in the Everest region of Nepal to climate change. High-resolution temperature and precipitation fields derived from gridded station data, and bias-corrected with independent station observations, are used to drive the historical model from 1961 to 2007. The model is calibrated against geodetically derived estimates of net glacier mass change from 1992 to 2008, termini position of four large glaciers at the end of the calibration period, average velocities observed on selected debris-covered glaciers, and total glacierized area. We integrate field-based observations of glacier mass balance and ice thickness with remotely sensed observations of decadal glacier change to validate the model. Between 1961 and 2007, the mean modelled volume change over the Dudh Koshi basin is −6.4 ± 1.5 km3, a decrease of 15.6% from the original estimated ice volume in 1961. Modelled glacier area change between 1961 and 2007 is −101.0 ± 11.4 km2, a decrease of approximately 20% from the initial extent. The modelled glacier sensitivity to future climate change is high. Application of temperature and precipitation anomalies from warm/dry and wet/cold end-members of the CMIP5 RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 ensemble results in sustained mass loss from glaciers in the Everest region through the 21st century.

Short summary
A glacier mass balance and redistribution model that integrates field observations and downscaled climate fields is developed to examine glacier sensitivity to future climate in the Everest region of Nepal. The modelled sensitivity of glaciers to future climate change is high, and glacier mass loss is sustained through the 21st century for both middle- and high-emission scenarios. Projected temperature increases will expose large glacier areas to melt and reduce snow accumulations.