Satellite monitoring of glaciers in the Karakoram from 1977 to 2013: an overall almost stable population of dynamic glaciers
R. M. Brahmbhatt1, I. M. Bahuguna2, B. P. Rathore2, S. K. Singh2, A. S. Rajawat2, R. D. Shah1, and J. S. Kargel31M.G. Science Institute, Ahmedabad, India 2Space Applications Centre, ISRO, Ahmedabad, India 3Department of Hydrology & Water Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
Received: 04 Dec 2014 – Accepted for review: 01 Feb 2015 – Discussion started: 10 Mar 2015
Abstract. Six hundred and seven glaciers of the Shigar, Shashghan, Nubra and part of Shyok sub-basins of the Karakoram region were monitored using satellite data of years 1977, 1990, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Landsat MSS, TM, ETM+ and IRS/Resourcesat-1 LISS III data were used. Glacier observations were classified into 3 categories such as advance, retreat or stable with reference to base data of 1977. Glaciers of the Karakoram have shown inconsistency in advance, retreat and no change during this period, and some examples of glacier surging have been caught in action. Despite significant geographic and temporal variability betraying the dynamic nature of many of the glaciers, in aggregate the population is roughly stable with less propensity toward retreat than most other glaciers in the nearby Himalaya and in the world. 341 glaciers exhibited no measured change throughout the 36 years of the study. Among other glaciers, no significant and sustained pattern of retreat or advance was observed. The overall changes in glacier area in the whole region are of small magnitudes (positive and negative values) in the various measured intervals. Moreover, it is mostly disconnected glaciers in tributary valleys which have advanced, whereas the main former trunk glaciers have primarily not changed. The dynamical differences between disconnected former tributaries and trunks may be related to response time differences, with the smaller, perhaps steeper tributaries responding more rapidly than trunks to brief climatic fluctuations. The advance/retreat fluctuations of many individual glaciers suggest that their response times primarily may be of order decades rather than some longer period, though some glaciers may have longer response times that have limited their length and area changes over the 36 year study period. The data from 2001 onwards were also utilized for finding annual changes of glaciers. Among the 607 glaciers, 10 show considerable fluctuation in their area; in several cases surge-waste cycles appear to be active. Glacier thickness change measurements are needed to aid our understanding of the regional glacier dynamics and relationships to climate change and area-response dynamics.
Brahmbhatt, R. M., Bahuguna, I. M., Rathore, B. P., Singh, S. K., Rajawat, A. S., Shah, R. D., and Kargel, J. S.: Satellite monitoring of glaciers in the Karakoram from 1977 to 2013: an overall almost stable population of dynamic glaciers, The Cryosphere Discuss., 9, 1555-1592, doi:10.5194/tcd-9-1555-2015, 2015.