Reduced Melt on Debris-Covered Glaciers: Investigations from Changri Nup Glacier, Nepal (2016)

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Debris-covered glaciers occupy more than 1/4 of the total glacierized area in the Everest region of Nepal, yet the surface mass balance of these glaciers has not been measured directly. In this study, ground-based measurements of surface elevation and ice depth are combined with terrestrial photogrammetry and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) elevation models to derive the surface mass balance of the debris-covered Changri Nup Glacier, located in the Everest region. Over the debris-covered tongue, the mean elevation change between 2011 and 2015 is -0.93 m ice/year or -0.84 m water equivalent per year (w.e. a-1). The mean emergence velocity over this region, estimated from the total ice flux through a cross-section immediately above the debris-covered zone, is +0.37 m w.e. a-1. The debris-covered portion of the glacier thus has an area-averaged mass balance of -1.21 ± 0.2 m w.e. a-1 between 5240 and 5525 m above sea level (m a.s.l.). The surface mass balances observed on nearby debris-free glaciers suggest that the ablation is strongly reduced (by ca. 1.8 m w.e. a-1) by the debris cover. The insulating effect of the debris cover largely dominates the enhanced ice ablation due to the supra-glacial ponds and exposed ice cliffs. This finding has major implications for modeling the future evolution of debris-covered glaciers.
Year: 2016
Language: English
In: The Cryosphere Discuss., 2016 : 1-28 p.

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 Record created 2016-06-03, last modified 2016-06-03