Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Glaciers Substantial mass Loss in the Tien Shan over the past 50 Years

The water supplies for populations in Central Asia depend heavily on the melt water from glaciers and snow. The main mountain range in this region is the Tien Shan, and in this mountain range changes to the glaciers have been reported over the past 30 years. Reconstructions over longer, multi-decadal timescales and the mechanisms underlying these variations, which are necessary for future projections that are reliable have not been well constrained. In this paper Farinotti et al. present the results of their study in which they used 3 ensembles of independent approaches that were based on satellite gravimetry, laser altimetry, and modelling of glaciers to estimate the total mass change of the glaciers in the Tien Shan. Reconstruction of a consistent time series of annual mass changes for the past 50 years at the resolution of individual glaciers have been possible as the results obtained from the 3 approaches are in good agreement with each other. Marked spatial and temporal variability in mass changes were detected. Farinotti et al. have estimated the overall decrease in total area loss of the glaciers to be 18 6 % for the period 1961-2012, and mass loss to be 27 15 % over the same period of time. According to Farinotti et al. these values correspond to a total loss of area of 2,960 1,030 km2, at an annual mass change rate of -5.4 2.8 Gt yr-1. Farinotti et al. suggest that the decline is driven primarily by melt in summer and is possibly linked to the combined effects of general climate warming and variability of circulation over the North Atlantic and the North Pacific.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Farinotti, D., L. Longuevergne, G. Moholdt, D. Duethmann, T. Molg, T. Bolch, S. Vorogushyn and A. Guntner (2015). "Substantial glacier mass loss in the Tien Shan over the past 50 years." Nature Geosci 8(9): 716-722.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 04/09/2015
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