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AGU: Geophysical Research Letters



  • Bhutan
  • Himalaya
  • glaciers
  • mass balance

Index Terms

  • 0762 - Mass balance
  • 0798 - Modeling
  • 1621 - Cryospheric change
  • 1630 - Impacts of global change
  • 1640 - Remote sensing

Paper in Press


Sensitivity and response of Bhutanese glaciers to atmospheric warming

Key Points
  • Uncertainty in climate results in order magnitude differences in glacier change
  • Even in the absence of additional warming, glacierized changes are substantial
  • Glacier changes are unlikely to be compensated for by precipitation changes


Summer Rupper

Joerg M Schaefer

Landon K. Burgener

Lora S Koenig

Karma Tsering

Edward R Cook

Glacierized change in the Himalayas affects river-discharge, hydro-energy and agricultural production, and Glacial Lake Outburst Flood potential, but its quantification and extent of impacts remains highly uncertain. Here we present conservative, comprehensive and quantitative predictions for glacier area and meltwater flux changes in Bhutan, monsoonal Himalayas. In particular, we quantify the uncertainties associated with the glacier area and meltwater flux changes due to uncertainty in climate data, a critical problem for much of High Asia. Based on a suite of gridded climate data and a robust glacier melt model, our results show that glacier area and meltwater change projections can vary by an order of magnitude for different climate datasets. However, the most conservative results indicate that, even if climate were to remain at the present-day mean values, almost 10% of Bhutan's glacierized area would vanish and the meltwater flux would drop by as much as 30%. Under the conservative scenario of an additional 1{degree sign}C regional warming, glacier retreat is going to continue until about 25% of Bhutan's glacierized area will have disappeared and the annual meltwater flux, after an initial spike, would drop by as much as 65%.

Received 5 July 2012; accepted 5 September 2012.

Citation: Rupper, S., J. M. Schaefer, L. K. Burgener, L. S. Koenig, K. Tsering, and E. R. Cook (2012), Sensitivity and response of Bhutanese glaciers to atmospheric warming, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2012GL053010, in press.