High Mountain Asian glacier response to climate revealed by multi-temporal satellite observations since the 1960s

Atanu Bhattacharya*, Tobias Bolch, Kriti Mukherjee, Owen King, Brian Menounos, Vassiliy Kapitsa, Niklas Neckel, Wei Yang, Tandong Yao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Knowledge about the long-term response of High Mountain Asian glaciers to climatic variations is paramount because of their important role in sustaining Asian river flow. Here, a satellite-based time series of glacier mass balance for seven climatically different regions across High Mountain Asia since the 1960s shows that glacier mass loss rates have persistently increased at most sites. Regional glacier mass budgets ranged from −0.40 ± 0.07 m w.e.a−1 in Central and Northern Tien Shan to −0.06 ± 0.07 m w.e.a−1 in Eastern Pamir, with considerable temporal and spatial variability. Highest rates of mass loss occurred in Central Himalaya and Northern Tien Shan after 2015 and even in regions where glaciers were previously in balance with climate, such as Eastern Pamir, mass losses prevailed in recent years. An increase in summer temperature explains the long-term trend in mass loss and now appears to drive mass loss even in regions formerly sensitive to both temperature and precipitation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4133
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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