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Seasonally stable temperature gradients through supraglacial debris in the Everest region of Nepal, Central Himalaya


Rowan, AV and Nicholson, LI and Quincey, DJ and Gibson, MJ and Irvine-Fynn, TDL and Watson, CS and Wagnon, P and Rounce, DR and Thompson, SS and Porter, PR and Glasser, NF, Seasonally stable temperature gradients through supraglacial debris in the Everest region of Nepal, Central Himalaya, Journal of Glaciology, 67, (261) pp. 170-181. ISSN 0022-1430 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1017/jog.2020.100


Rock debris covers ~30% of glacier ablation areas in the Central Himalaya and modifies the impact of atmospheric conditions on mass balance. The thermal properties of supraglacial debris are diurnally variable but remain poorly constrained for monsoon-influenced glaciers over the timescale of the ablation season. We measured vertical debris profile temperatures at 12 sites on four glaciers in the Everest region with debris thickness ranging from 0.08 to 2.8 m. Typically, the length of the ice ablation season beneath supraglacial debris was 160 days (15 May to 22 October)a month longer than the monsoon season. Debris temperature gradients were approximately linear (r2 > 0.83), measured as −40C m1 where debris was up to 0.1 m thick, −20C m1 for debris 0.10.5 m thick, and −4C m1 for debris greater than 0.5 m thick. Our results demonstrate that the influence of supraglacial debris on the temperature of the underlying ice surface, and therefore melt, is stable at a seasonal timescale and can be estimated from near-surface temperature. These results have the potential to greatly improve the representation of ablation in calculations of debris-covered glacier mass balance and projections of their response to climate change.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:temperature gradients, supraglacial debris, Everest, Himalayas
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Physical geography and environmental geoscience
Research Field:Glaciology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences
UTAS Author:Thompson, SS (Dr Sarah Thompson)
ID Code:152013
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:13
Deposited By:Australian Antarctic Program Partnership
Deposited On:2022-08-10
Last Modified:2022-08-10

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