Retreat rates of debris-covered and debris-free glaciers in the Koshi River Basin, central Himalayas, from 1975 to 2010

  • Yang Xiang
  • Tandong Yao
  • Yang Gao
  • Guoqing Zhang
  • Weicai Wang
  • Lide Tian
Original Article

Abstract

Debris-covered glaciers are common in the Himalayas and play a key role in understanding future regional water availability and management. Previous studies of regional glacial changes have often neglected debris-covered glaciers or have mixed them with debris-free glaciers. In this study, we generated a new glacier data set that includes debris-covered and debris-free glaciers to study the glacial surface area change in the Koshi River Basin in the central Himalayas. Long time-series Landsat data were used to extract the glacier boundaries using automatic and manual classification methods. The glacial area decreased by 10.4% from 1975 to 2010 at a rate of 0.30% a−1, with accelerated melting since 2000 (0.47% a−1). Small glaciers melted faster than large glaciers. In terms of distinctive glacier types, debris-free glaciers shrank at a rate of 0.45% a−1, faster than debris-covered glaciers (0.18% a−1), while debris-covered glaciers larger than 5.0 km2 retreated at a rate faster than debris-free glaciers of the same-sized group. We also studied the potential interactions between 222 supraglacial lakes and debris-covered glaciers. Debris-covered glaciers with glacial lakes melt faster than glaciers without lakes. This study can improve our understanding of the differences in the changes between debris-covered and debris-free glaciers in the central Himalayas and help evaluate water resource changes in the Himalayas.

Keywords

Glacier change Debris-covered glacier Debris-free glacier Glacial lake Koshi River Basin Central Himalayas 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41190081, 41401082, 41571061 and 41701069), the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB03030203) and the Major Special Project—The China High-Resolution Earth Observation System (30-Y30B13-9003-14/16-01). We would like to thank Dr. Xiaoxin Yang for the helpful comments on the earlier draft of this paper. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and advices in improving the manuscript. We also thank the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for providing Landsat data.

Supplementary material

12665_2018_7457_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (83 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 83 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yang Xiang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tandong Yao
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yang Gao
    • 2
    • 3
  • Guoqing Zhang
    • 2
    • 3
  • Weicai Wang
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lide Tian
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.College of GeomaticsXi’an University of Science and TechnologyXi’anChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environmental Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau ResearchChinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)BeijingChina
  3. 3.CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth SciencesBeijingChina

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