Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
Brief communication
19 Mar 2015
Brief communication |  | 19 Mar 2015

Brief Communication: Contending estimates of 2003–2008 glacier mass balance over the Pamir–Karakoram–Himalaya

A. Kääb, D. Treichler, C. Nuth, and E. Berthier

Abstract. We present glacier thickness changes over the entire Pamir–Karakoram–Himalaya arc based on ICESat satellite altimetry data for 2003–2008. We highlight the importance of C-band penetration for studies based on the SRTM elevation model. This penetration seems to be of potentially larger magnitude and variability than previously assumed. The most negative rate of region-wide glacier elevation change (<−1 m yr−1) is observed for the eastern Nyainqêntanglha Shan. Conversely, glaciers of the western Kunlun Shan are slightly gaining volume, and Pamir and Karakoram seem to be on the western edge of this mass-gain anomaly rather than its centre. For the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra basins, the glacier mass change reaches −24 ± 2 Gt yr−1, about 10% of the current glacier contribution to sea-level rise. For selected catchments, we estimate glacier imbalance contributions to river run-off from a few percent to greater than 10%.

Short summary
Based on satellite laser altimetry over the Pamir--Karakoram Himalaya we detect strongest elevation losses over east Nyainqentanglha Shan and Spiti--Lahaul but slight elevation gains over west Kunlun Shan rather than over Karakoram. The current sea-level contribution of Pamir--Karakoram Himalaya glaciers is about 10% of the total global contribution of glaciers outside the ice sheets. We also improve estimates of glacier imbalance contribution to river discharge in the Himalayas.