Review of the status and mass changes of Himalayan-Karakoram glaciers


We present a comprehensive review of the status and changes in glacier length (since the 1850s), area and mass (since the 1960s) along the Himalayan-Karakoram (HK) region and their climate-change context. A quantitative reliability classification of the field-based mass-balance series is developed. Glaciological mass balances agree better with remotely sensed balances when we make an objective, systematic exclusion of likely flawed mass-balance series. The Himalayan mean glaciological mass budget was similar to the global average until 2000, and likely less negative after 2000. Mass wastage in the Himalaya resulted in increasing debris cover, the growth of glacial lakes and possibly decreasing ice velocities. Geodetic measurements indicate nearly balanced mass budgets for Karakoram glaciers since the 1970s, consistent with the unchanged extent of supraglacial debris-cover. Himalayan glaciers seem to be sensitive to precipitation partly through the albedo feedback on the short-wave radiation balance. Melt contributions from HK glaciers should increase until 2050 and then decrease, though a wide range of present-day area and volume estimates propagates large uncertainties in the future runoff. This review reflects an increasing understanding of HK glaciers and highlights the remaining challenges.

Journal of Glaciology