Hot spots of glacier mass balance variability in Central Asia

Martina Barandun, Eric Pohl, Kathrin Naegeli, Robert McNabb, Matthias Huss, Etienne Berthier, Tomas Saks, Martin Hoelzle

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Abstract: The Tien Shan and Pamir mountains host over 28,000 glaciers providing essential water resources for increasing water demand in Central Asia. A disequilibrium between glaciers and climate affects meltwater release to Central Asian rivers, challenging the region's water availability. Previous research has neglected temporal variability. We present glacier mass balance estimates based on transient snowline and geodetic surveys with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution from 1999/00 to 2017/18. Our results reveal spatiotemporal heterogeneity characterized by two mass balance clusters: (a) positive, low variability, and (b) negative, high variability. This translates into variable glacial meltwater release (≈1–16%) of annual river runoff for two watersheds. Our study reveals more complex climate forcing‐runoff responses and importance of glacial meltwater variability for the region than suggested previously.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number11
Early online date9 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2021


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