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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  12 Aug 2020

12 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Distributed summer air temperatures across mountain glaciers: climatic sensitivity and glacier size

Thomas E. Shaw1, Wei Yang2,3, Álvaro Ayala4, Claudio Bravo5, Chaunxi Zhao2, and Francesca Pellicciotti6,7 Thomas E. Shaw et al.
  • 1Advanced Mining Technology Center, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  • 2Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing, China
  • 3CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
  • 4Centre for Advanced Studies in Arid Zones (CEAZA), La Serena, Chile
  • 5School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 6Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 7Department of Geography, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK

Abstract. Near-surface air temperature (Ta) is highly important for modelling glacier ablation, though its spatio-temporal variability over melting glaciers still remains largely unknown. We present a new dataset of distributed Ta for three glaciers of different size in the south-east Tibetan Plateau during two monsoon-dominated summer seasons. We compare on-glacier Ta to ambient Ta extrapolated from several, local off-glacier stations. We parameterise the along-flowline climatic sensitivity of Ta on these glaciers to changes in off-glacier temperatures and present the results in the context of several available distributed on-glacier datasets around the world. Climatic sensitivity decreases rapidly up to 2000–3000 m along the down-glacier flowline distance. Beyond this distance, both the Ta of the Tibetan glaciers and global glacier datasets show a slower decrease of climatic sensitivity. In general, observations on small glaciers (with < 1000 m flowline distance) are highly sensitive to temperature changes outside the glacier boundary layer. The climatology of a given region can influence the general magnitude of this climatic sensitivity, though no strong relationships are found between along-flowline climatic sensitivity and mean summer temperatures or precipitation. The terminus of some glaciers remain associated with other warm air processes that increase climatic sensitivity (such as divergent boundary layer flow, warm up-valley winds or debris heating effects) which are evident only beyond ~ 70 % of the total glacier flowline distance. Our results therefore suggest a strong role of local effects in modulating climatic sensitivity close to the glacier terminus, although further work is still required to explain the variable presence of these effects for different glaciers.

Thomas E. Shaw et al.

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Thomas E. Shaw et al.

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Climatic sensitivity of near surface air temperatures on mountain glaciers Thomas E. Shaw, Wei Yang, Álvaro Ayala, Claudio Bravo, Chuanxi Zhao, and Francesca Pellicciotti

Thomas E. Shaw et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Near surface air temperature (Ta) is important for simulating the melting of glaciers, though its variability in space and time on mountain glaciers is still poorly understood. We combine new Ta observations on glacier in Tibet with several glaciers datasets around the world to explore the applicability of a method to estimate glacier Ta based upon glacier topographic characteristics. We make a first step at generalising a method and highlight the remaining unknowns for this field of research.
Near surface air temperature (Ta) is important for simulating the melting of glaciers, though...