Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-97
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-97

  10 May 2021

10 May 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Understanding monsoon controls on the energy and mass balance of Himalayan glaciers

Stefan Fugger1,2, Catriona L. Fyffe1,3, Simone Fatichi4, Evan Miles1, Michael McCarthy1,5, Thomas E. Shaw1, Baohong Ding6, Wei Yang6, Patrick Wagnon7, Walter Immerzeel8, Qiao Liu9, and Francesca Pellicciotti1,3 Stefan Fugger et al.
  • 1Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL),Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
  • 4Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  • 5British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK
  • 6Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • 7Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble-INP, IGE, 38000 Grenoble, France
  • 8Faculty of Geosciences, Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 9Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu, China

Abstract. The Indian and East Asian Summer Monsoons shape the melt and accumulation patterns of glaciers in High Mountain Asia in complex ways due to the interaction of persistent cloud cover, large temperature amplitudes, high atmospheric water content and high precipitation rates. While the monsoons dominate the climate of the southern and eastern regions, they progressively lose strength westward towards the Karakoram, where the influence of Westerlies is predominant. Despite the major role of the monsoon in the Himalayas, a holistic understanding of their influence on the region's glaciers is lacking because previous applications of energy- and mass-balance models have been limited to single study sites. In this study, we use a full energy- and mass-balance model and seven on-glacier automatic weather station datasets from different parts of the Himalayas to investigate how monsoon conditions influence the glacier surface energy and mass balance. In particular, we look at how debris-covered and debris-free glaciers respond differently to monsoonal conditions. The radiation budget mostly controls the melt of clean-ice glaciers, but turbulent fluxes also play an important role in modulating the melt energy on debris-covered glaciers. The sensible heat flux reduces during core monsoon, but the latent heat flux removes energy from the surface due to evaporation of liquid water. This interplay of radiative and turbulent fluxes, together with compensations between increasing and decreasing melt rates over the diurnal cycle, causes debris-covered glacier melt rates to stay almost constant over the entire ablation period through the different phases of the monsoon. Ice melt under thin debris, on the other hand, is amplified by both the dark surface albedo and the turbulent fluxes, which act as a source of energy through surface heating and condensation, especially during monsoon. Pre-monsoon snow cover can considerably delay melt onset and have a strong impact on the seasonal mass balance. Intermittent monsoon snow cover further modulates the melt rates at high elevation. Given our results, we expect the mass balance of debris-covered glaciers to react less sensitively to projected future monsoon conditions than clean-ice and dirty-ice glaciers. This work is fundamental to the understanding of the present and future Himalayan cryosphere and water budget evolution, while informing and motivating further glacier- and catchment-scale research using process-based models (Yang et al., 2017).

Stefan Fugger et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-97', Anonymous Referee #1, 06 Jul 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Stefan Fugger, 23 Aug 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-97', Anonymous Referee #2, 19 Jul 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Stefan Fugger, 23 Aug 2021

Stefan Fugger et al.

Stefan Fugger et al.

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Short summary
The monsoon is important for the shrinking and growing of glaciers in the Himalayas during summer. We calculate the melt of seven glaciers in the region using a glacier melt model and weather data. We find that monsoonal weather affects glaciers that are covered with a layer of rocky debris, and glaciers without such a layer in distinct ways. Snow cover protects the glaciers because of it's reflecting properties. This knowledge is important to predict the future of the Himalayan glaciers.