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Spatial variability between glacier mass balance and environmental factors in the High Mountain Asia

Abstract

High Mountain Asia (HMA) region contains the world's highest peaks and the largest concentration of glaciers except for the polar regions, making it sensitive to global climate change. In the context of global warming, most glaciers in the HMA show various degrees of negative mass balance, while some show positive or near-neutral balance. Many studies have reported that spatial heterogeneity in glacier mass balance is strongly related to a combination of climate parameters. However, this spatial heterogeneity may vary according to the dynamic patterns of climate change at regional or continental scale. The reasons for this may be related to non-climatic factors. To understand the mechanisms by which spatial heterogeneity forms, it is necessary to establish the relationships between glacier mass balance and environmental factors related to topography and morphology. In this study, climate, topography, morphology, and other environmental factors are investigated. Geodetector and linear regression analysis were used to explore the driving factors of spatial variability of glacier mass balance in the HMA by using elevation change data during 2000–2016. The results show that the coverage of supraglacial debris is an essential factor affecting the spatial heterogeneity of glacier mass balance, followed by climatic factors and topographic factors, especially the median elevation and slope in the HMA. There are some differences among mountain regions and the explanatory power of climatic factors on the spatial differentiation of glacier mass balance in each mountain region is weak, indicating that climatic background of each mountain region is similar. Therefore, under similar climatic backgrounds, the median elevation and slope are most correlated with glacier mass balance. The interaction of various factors is enhanced, but no unified interaction factor plays a primary role. Topographic and morphological factors also control the spatial heterogeneity of glacier mass balance by influencing its sensitivity to climate change. In conclusion, geodetector method provides an objective framework for revealing the factors controlling glacier mass balance.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (42071085, 41701087) and the Open Project of the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science (SKLCS 2020-10).

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Correspondence to Zhen Zhang.

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Zhang, Z., Gu, Z., Hu, K. et al. Spatial variability between glacier mass balance and environmental factors in the High Mountain Asia. J. Arid Land 14, 441–454 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-017-0014-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-017-0014-z

Keywords

  • geodetector
  • glacier change
  • mass balance
  • climate change
  • High Mountain Asia