13 Dec 2022
13 Dec 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Thinning and surface mass balance patterns of two neighboring debris-covered glaciers in southeastern Tibetan Plateau

Chuanxi Zhao1,2, Wei Yang2, Evan Miles3, Matthew Westoby4, Marin Kneib3,5, Yongjie Wang2, Zhen He2,6, and Francesca Pellicciotti3,4 Chuanxi Zhao et al.
  • 1College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730000, China
  • 2State Key Laboratory of Tibetan Plateau Earth System, Environment and Resources (TPESER), Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China
  • 3High Mountain Glaciers and Hydrology Group, Swiss Federal Institute, WSL, Birmensdorf, 8903, Switzerland
  • 4Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK
  • 5Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zurich, Zurich, 8093, Switzerland
  • 6University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China

Abstract. Debris-covered glaciers are a common feature of the mountain cryosphere in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. A better understanding of these glaciers change is necessary to reduce the uncertainties of the regional water resource variability, and to anticipate potential cryospheric risks. In this study, we quantify seasonal thinning (dh) and surface mass balance (SMB) patterns of two neighboring debris-covered glaciers (23 K Glacier and 24 K Glacier) in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau with repeated unpiloted aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys and in-situ measurements. We observe that the dh pattern of 23 K Glacier is distinct from that of 24 K Glacier, despite their proximity. The dh magnitude of the 23 K Glacier is ~1.4–3.0 times greater than that of the 24 K Glacier at all periods, which is mainly driven by the stronger dynamic state of 24 K Glacier. The contrasted behaviour between the two glaciers is also valid in the early twenty-first century. In contrast, the SMB patterns of the two glaciers are generally in agreement at different periods. The debris thickness distribution correlates with the SMB spatial distribution for both glaciers, while the supraglacial ice cliffs and ponds area density distribution is not correlated with SMB spatial distribution. This high-resolution comparison study of two neighboring glaciers confirms the significance of both glacier dynamic and debris thickness in controlling the thinning and melt for the different type debris-covered glaciers of the southeastern Tibetan Plateau in the context of climate change.

Chuanxi Zhao et al.

Status: open (until 17 Feb 2023)

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Chuanxi Zhao et al.

Chuanxi Zhao et al.


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Short summary
This paper quantifies the thinning and surface mass balance of two neighbouring debris-covered glaciers in southeastern Tibetan Plateau during different seasons, based on high spatio-temporal resolution UAV-derived data and in-situ observations. Through a comparison approach and high precision results, we identify that glacier dynamic, debris thickness and hotspots area (ice cliffs and supraglacial ponds) are strongly related to the future fate of the debris-covered glaciers in this region.