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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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The Cryosphere Discuss., 5, 95-129, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
07 Jan 2011
Review status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). A final paper in TC is not foreseen.
A model study of the energy and mass balance of Chhota Shigri glacier in the Western Himalaya, India
F. Pithan
University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

Abstract. The impact of climate change on Himalaya mountain glaciers is increasingly subject of public and scientific debate. However, observational data are sparse and important knowledge gaps remain in the understanding of what drives changes in these glaciers' mass balances. The present study investigates the glacier regime on Chhota Shigri, a benchmark glacier for the observation of climate change in the monsoon-arid transition zone of Western Himalaya. Results of an energy-balance model driven by reanalysis data and the observed mass balances from three years on 50 m altitude intervals across the glacier display a correlation coefficient of 0.974. Contrary to prior assumptions, monsoon precipitation accounts for a quarter to a third of total accumulation. It has an additional importance because it lowers the surface albedo during the ablation season. Results confirm radiation as the main energy source for melt on Himalaya glaciers. Latent heat flux acts as an important energy sink in the pre-monsoon season. Mass balance is most sensitive to changes in atmospheric humidity, changing by 900 mm w.e. per 10% change in humidity. Temperature sensitivity is 220 mm w.e.K−1. Model results using 21st century anomalies from a regional climate model based on the SRES A2 scenario suggest that a monsoon increase might offset the effect of warming.

Citation: Pithan, F.: A model study of the energy and mass balance of Chhota Shigri glacier in the Western Himalaya, India, The Cryosphere Discuss., 5, 95-129, doi:10.5194/tcd-5-95-2011, 2011.
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