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  • image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/
    Authors: Kääb, Andreas; Strozzi, Tazio; Bolch, Tobias; Caduff, Rafael; +3 Authors

    Spatio-temporal patterns related to the viscous creep in perennially frozen sediments of rock glaciers in cold mountains have rarely been studied outside the densely populated European Alps. This study investigates the spatial and temporal variability of rock glacier movement in the Ile Alatau and Kungöy Ala-Too mountain ranges, northern Tien Shan, a region with particularly large and fast rock glaciers. Over the study region of more than 3000 km2, an inventory of slope movements was constructed using a large number of radar interferograms and high-resolution optical imagery. The inventory includes more than 900 landforms, of which around 550 were interpreted as rock glaciers. Out of the active rock glaciers inventoried, 45 are characterized by a rate of motion exceeding 100 cm/a. From these fast rock glaciers we selected six (Gorodetzky, Morenny, Archaly, Ordzhonikidze, Karakoram, and Kugalan Tash) and studied them in more detail using offset tracking between repeat aerial images and historical and modern high-resolution optical satellite data. Two of these rock glaciers showed a steady increase in decadal surface velocities from the 1950s onwards, with speeds being roughly 2 to 4 times higher in recent years compared to the 1950s and 1960s. Three rock glaciers showed similar accelerations over the last 1 to 2 decades but also phases of increased speeds in the 1960s. This development indicates a possible significant increase in current sediment and ice fluxes through rock glaciers and implies that their material transport in the region might gain geomorphodynamic importance relative to material transport by glaciers, assuming the latter decreases together with the regional glacier shrinkage. The study demonstrates how air and satellite image archives are exploited to construct one of the longest decennial times series of rock glacier speeds currently available. Our results are in line with findings from Europe about rock glacier speeds increasing with atmospheric warming and underline local variability of such an overall response.

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      image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/
  • image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/
    Authors: Kääb, Andreas; Jacquemart, Mylène; Gilbert, Adrien; Leinss, Silvan; +11 Authors

    The detachment of large parts of low-angle mountain glaciers resulting in massive ice–rock avalanches have so far been believed to be a unique type of event, made known to the global scientific community first for the 2002 Kolka Glacier detachment, Caucasus Mountains, and then for the 2016 collapses of two glaciers in the Aru range, Tibet. Since 2016, several so-far unrecognized low-angle glacier detachments have been recognized and described, and new ones have occurred. In the current contribution, we compile, compare, and discuss 20 actual or suspected large-volume detachments of low-angle mountain glaciers at 10 different sites in the Caucasus, the Pamirs, Tibet, Altai, the North American Cordillera, and the Southern Andes. Many of the detachments reached volumes in the order of 10–100 million m3. The similarities and differences between the presented cases indicate that glacier detachments often involve a coincidental combination of factors related to the lowering of basal friction, high or increasing driving stresses, concentration of shear stress, or low resistance to exceed stability thresholds. Particularly soft glacier beds seem to be a common condition among the observed events as they offer smooth contact areas between the glacier and the underlying substrate and are prone to till-strength weakening and eventually basal failure under high pore-water pressure. Partially or fully thawed glacier bed conditions and the presence of liquid water could thus play an important role in the detachments. Surface slopes of the detached glaciers range between around 10∘ and 20∘. This may be low enough to enable the development of thick and thus large-volume glaciers while also being steep enough to allow critical driving stresses to build up. We construct a simple slab model to estimate ranges of glacier slope and width above which a glacier may be able to detach when extensively losing basal resistance. From this model we estimate that all the detachments described in this study occurred due to a basal shear stress reduction of more than 50 %. Most of the ice–rock avalanches resulting from the detachments in this study have a particularly low angle of reach, down to around 5∘, likely due to their high ice content and connected liquefaction potential, the availability of soft basal slurries, and large amounts of basal water, as well as the smooth topographic setting typical for glacial valleys. Low-angle glacier detachments combine elements and likely also physical processes of glacier surges and ice break-offs from steep glaciers. The surge-like temporal evolution ahead of several detachments and their geographic proximity to other surge-type glaciers indicate the glacier detachments investigated can be interpreted as endmembers of the continuum of surge-like glacier instabilities. Though rare, glacier detachments appear to be more frequent than commonly thought and disclose, despite local differences in conditions and precursory evolutions, the fundamental and critical potential of low-angle soft glacier beds to fail catastrophically.

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  • image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/
    Authors: Kääb, Andreas; Strozzi, Tazio; Bolch, Tobias; Caduff, Rafael; +3 Authors

    Spatio-temporal patterns of rock glacier creep have rarely been studied outside the densely populated European Alps. This study investigates the spatial and temporal variability of rock glacier motion in the Ile Alatau and Kungöy Ala-Too mountain ranges, northern Tien Shan. Over the study region of more than 3000 km2, an inventory of slope movements is constructed using a large number of radar interferograms and high-resolution optical imagery. The inventory includes more than 900 landforms, of which around 550 are interpreted as rock glaciers. Out of the active rock glaciers, 45 are characterised by a rate of motion exceeding 1 m/a. From these fast rock glaciers we select six and study them in more detail (Gorodetzky, Morenny, Archaly, Ordzhonikidze, Karakoram and Kugalan Tash rock glaciers) using offset tracking between airphotos, and historical and modern very high resolution optical satellite data. Most of them show an overall increase of decadal surface velocities from the 1950s onwards with speeds being roughly two to three times higher in recent years compared to the 1950s and 1960s. This development indicates a possible significant increase in sediment and ice fluxes through rock glaciers and implies that – when compared to glacier shrinkage – periglacial sediment transport in the region seems to gain importance relative to glacial sediment transport. Those rock glacier fronts reaching the valley floors show a strongly compressive flow regime, and changes in speeds further upstream affect them only in a damped way. The only rock glacier investigated in detail that does not exhibit an overall increase in speed since the 1950s is Gorodetsky where glacier retreat and dead-ice degradation seem to have decoupled the rock glacier from its supply by glacial sediments and ice.

    image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/ The Cryosphere (TC)arrow_drop_down
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      image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/ The Cryosphere (TC)arrow_drop_down
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  • image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/
    Authors: Smith-Johnsen, Silje; Fleurian, Basile; Schlegel, Nicole; Seroussi, Helene; +1 Authors

    The Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) currently drains more than 10 % of the Greenland Ice Sheet area and has recently undergone significant dynamic changes. It is therefore critical to accurately represent this feature when assessing the future contribution of Greenland to sea level rise. At present, NEGIS is reproduced in ice sheet models by inferring basal conditions using observed surface velocities. This approach helps estimate conditions at the base of the ice sheet but cannot be used to estimate the evolution of basal drag in time, so it is not a good representation of the evolution of the ice sheet in future climate warming scenarios. NEGIS is suggested to be initiated by a geothermal heat flux anomaly close to the ice divide, left behind by the movement of Greenland over the Icelandic plume. However, the heat flux underneath the ice sheet is largely unknown, except for a few direct measurements from deep ice core drill sites. Using the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM), with ice dynamics coupled to a subglacial hydrology model, we investigate the possibility of initiating NEGIS by inserting heat flux anomalies with various locations and intensities. In our model experiment, a minimum heat flux value of 970 mW m−2 located close to the East Greenland Ice-core Project (EGRIP) is required locally to reproduce the observed NEGIS velocities, giving basal melt rates consistent with previous estimates. The value cannot be attributed to geothermal heat flux alone and we suggest hydrothermal circulation as a potential explanation for the high local heat flux. By including high heat flux and the effect of water on sliding, we successfully reproduce the main characteristics of NEGIS in an ice sheet model without using data assimilation.

    image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/ The Cryosphere (TC)arrow_drop_down
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    Copernicus Publications
    Other ORP type . 2020
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      Copernicus Publications
      Other ORP type . 2020
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    Authors: Treichler, Désirée; Kääb, Andreas; Salzmann, Nadine; Xu, Chong-Yu;

    We present an updated, spatially resolved estimate of 2003–2008 glacier surface elevation changes for the entire region of High Mountain Asia (HMA) from ICESat laser altimetry data. The results reveal a diverse pattern that is caused by spatially greatly varying glacier sensitivity, in particular to precipitation availability and changes. We introduce a spatially resolved zonation where ICESat samples are grouped into units of similar glacier behaviour, glacier type and topographic settings. In several regions, our new zonation reveals local differences and anomalies that have not been described previously. Glaciers in the Eastern Pamirs, Kunlun Shan and central TP were thickening by 0.1–0.7 m a−1, and the thickening anomaly has a crisp boundary in the Eastern Pamirs that continues just north of the central Karakoram. Glaciers in the south and east of the TP were thinning, with increasing rates towards southeast. We attribute the glacier thickening signal to a stepwise increase in precipitation around ∼1997–2000 on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). The precipitation change is reflected by growth of endorheic lakes in particular in the northern and eastern TP. We estimate lake volume changes through a combination of repeat lake extents from Landsat data and shoreline elevations from ICESat and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation model (DEM) for over 1300 lakes. The rise in water volume contained in the lakes corresponds to 4–25 mm a−1, when distributed over entire catchments, for the areas where we see glacier thickening. The precipitation increase is also visible in sparse in situ measurements and MERRA-2 climate reanalysis data but less visible in ERA-Interim reanalysis data. Taking into account evaporation loss, the difference between average annual precipitation during the 1990s and 2000s suggested by these datasets is 34–100 mm a−1, depending on region, which can fully explain both lake growth and glacier thickening (Kunlun Shan) or glacier geometry changes such as thinning tongues while upper glacier areas were thickening or stable (eastern TP). The precipitation increase reflected in these glacier changes possibly extended to the northern slopes of the Tarim Basin, where glaciers were nearly in balance in 2003–2008. Along the entire Himalaya, glaciers on the first orographic ridge, which are exposed to abundant precipitation, were thinning less than glaciers in the dryer climate of the inner ranges. Thinning rates in the Tien Shan vary spatially but are rather stronger than in other parts of HMA.

    image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/ The Cryosphere (TC)arrow_drop_down
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    Copernicus Publications
    Other ORP type . 2019
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      Copernicus Publications
      Other ORP type . 2019
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    Authors: Gilbert, Adrien; Sinisalo, Anna; Gurung, Tika R.; Fujita, Koji; +3 Authors

    In cold and arid climates, small glaciers with cold accumulation zones are often thought to be entirely cold based. However, scattering in ground-penetrating radar (GPR) measurements on the Rikha Samba Glacier in the Nepal Himalayas suggests a large amount of temperate ice that seems to be influenced by the presence of crevassed areas. We used a coupled thermo-mechanical model forced by a firn model accounting for firn heating to interpret the observed thermal regime. Using a simple energy conservation approach, we show that the addition of water percolation and refreezing in crevassed areas explains these observations. Model experiments show that both steady and transient thermal regimes are significantly affected by latent heat release in crevassed areas. This makes half of the glacier base temperate, resulting in an ice dynamic mainly controlled by basal friction instead of ice deformation. The timescale of thermal regime change, in response to atmospheric warming, is also greatly diminished, with a potential switch from cold to temperate basal ice in 50–60 years in the upper part of the glacier instead of the 100–150 years that it would take without the effect of the crevasses. This study highlights the crucial role of water percolation through the crevasses on the thermal regime of glaciers and validates a simple method to account for it in glacier thermo-mechanical models.

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    Copernicus Publications
    Other ORP type . 2020
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      Copernicus Publications
      Other ORP type . 2020
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    Authors: McNabb, Robert; Nuth, Christopher; Kääb, Andreas; Girod, Luc;

    Glacier mass balance has been estimated on individual glacier and regional scales using repeat digital elevation models (DEMs). DEMs often have gaps in coverage (“voids”), the properties of which depend on the nature of the sensor used and the surface being measured. The way that these voids are accounted for has a direct impact on the estimate of geodetic glacier mass balance, though a systematic comparison of different proposed methods has been heretofore lacking. In this study, we determine the impact and sensitivity of void interpolation methods on estimates of volume change. Using two spatially complete, high-resolution DEMs over southeast Alaska, USA, we artificially generate voids in one of the DEMs using correlation values derived from photogrammetric processing of Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) scenes. We then compare 11 different void interpolation methods on a glacier-by-glacier and regional basis. We find that a few methods introduce biases of up to 20 % in the regional results, while other methods give results very close (<1 % difference) to the true, non-voided volume change estimates. By comparing results from a few of the best-performing methods, an estimate of the uncertainty introduced by interpolating voids can be obtained. Finally, by increasing the number of voids, we show that with these best-performing methods, reliable estimates of glacier-wide volume change can be obtained, even with sparse DEM coverage.

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    Authors: Beer, Christian; Porada, Philipp; Ekici, Altug; Brakebusch, Matthias;

    Effects of the short-term temporal variability of meteorological variables on soil temperature in northern high-latitude regions have been investigated. For this, a process-oriented land surface model has been driven using an artificially manipulated climate dataset. Short-term climate variability mainly impacts snow depth, and the thermal diffusivity of lichens and bryophytes. These impacts of climate variability on insulating surface layers together substantially alter the heat exchange between atmosphere and soil. As a result, soil temperature is 0.1 to 0.8 ∘C higher when climate variability is reduced. Earth system models project warming of the Arctic region but also increasing variability of meteorological variables and more often extreme meteorological events. Therefore, our results show that projected future increases in permafrost temperature and active-layer thickness in response to climate change will be lower (i) when taking into account future changes in short-term variability of meteorological variables and (ii) when representing dynamic snow and lichen and bryophyte functions in land surface models.

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    Authors: Seroussi, Hélène; Nowicki, Sophie; Simon, Erika; Abe-Ouchi, Ayako; +35 Authors

    Ice sheet numerical modeling is an important tool to estimate the dynamic contribution of the Antarctic ice sheet to sea level rise over the coming centuries. The influence of initial conditions on ice sheet model simulations, however, is still unclear. To better understand this influence, an initial state intercomparison exercise (initMIP) has been developed to compare, evaluate, and improve initialization procedures and estimate their impact on century-scale simulations. initMIP is the first set of experiments of the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for CMIP6 (ISMIP6), which is the primary Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) activity focusing on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Following initMIP-Greenland, initMIP-Antarctica has been designed to explore uncertainties associated with model initialization and spin-up and to evaluate the impact of changes in external forcings. Starting from the state of the Antarctic ice sheet at the end of the initialization procedure, three forward experiments are each run for 100 years: a control run, a run with a surface mass balance anomaly, and a run with a basal melting anomaly beneath floating ice. This study presents the results of initMIP-Antarctica from 25 simulations performed by 16 international modeling groups. The submitted results use different initial conditions and initialization methods, as well as ice flow model parameters and reference external forcings. We find a good agreement among model responses to the surface mass balance anomaly but large variations in responses to the basal melting anomaly. These variations can be attributed to differences in the extent of ice shelves and their upstream tributaries, the numerical treatment of grounding line, and the initial ocean conditions applied, suggesting that ongoing efforts to better represent ice shelves in continental-scale models should continue.

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    Authors: Palmtag, Juri; Cable, Stefanie; Christiansen, Hanne H.; Hugelius, Gustaf; +1 Authors

    Soils in the northern high latitudes are a key component in the global carbon cycle, with potential feedback on climate. This study aims to improve the previous soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) storage estimates for the Zackenberg area (NE Greenland) that were based on a land cover classification (LCC) approach, by using geomorphological upscaling. In addition, novel organic carbon (OC) estimates for deeper alluvial and deltaic deposits (down to 300 cm depth) are presented. We hypothesise that landforms will better represent the long-term slope and depositional processes that result in deep SOC burial in this type of mountain permafrost environments. The updated mean SOC storage for the 0–100 cm soil depth is 4.8 kg C m−2, which is 42 % lower than the previous estimate of 8.3 kg C m−2 based on land cover upscaling. Similarly, the mean soil TN storage in the 0–100 cm depth decreased with 44 % from 0.50 kg (± 0.1 CI) to 0.28 (±0.1 CI) kg TN m−2. We ascribe the differences to a previous areal overestimate of SOC- and TN-rich vegetated land cover classes. The landform-based approach more correctly constrains the depositional areas in alluvial fans and deltas with high SOC and TN storage. These are also areas of deep carbon storage with an additional 2.4 kg C m−2 in the 100–300 cm depth interval. This research emphasises the need to consider geomorphology when assessing SOC pools in mountain permafrost landscapes.

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    Authors: Kääb, Andreas; Strozzi, Tazio; Bolch, Tobias; Caduff, Rafael; +3 Authors

    Spatio-temporal patterns related to the viscous creep in perennially frozen sediments of rock glaciers in cold mountains have rarely been studied outside the densely populated European Alps. This study investigates the spatial and temporal variability of rock glacier movement in the Ile Alatau and Kungöy Ala-Too mountain ranges, northern Tien Shan, a region with particularly large and fast rock glaciers. Over the study region of more than 3000 km2, an inventory of slope movements was constructed using a large number of radar interferograms and high-resolution optical imagery. The inventory includes more than 900 landforms, of which around 550 were interpreted as rock glaciers. Out of the active rock glaciers inventoried, 45 are characterized by a rate of motion exceeding 100 cm/a. From these fast rock glaciers we selected six (Gorodetzky, Morenny, Archaly, Ordzhonikidze, Karakoram, and Kugalan Tash) and studied them in more detail using offset tracking between repeat aerial images and historical and modern high-resolution optical satellite data. Two of these rock glaciers showed a steady increase in decadal surface velocities from the 1950s onwards, with speeds being roughly 2 to 4 times higher in recent years compared to the 1950s and 1960s. Three rock glaciers showed similar accelerations over the last 1 to 2 decades but also phases of increased speeds in the 1960s. This development indicates a possible significant increase in current sediment and ice fluxes through rock glaciers and implies that their material transport in the region might gain geomorphodynamic importance relative to material transport by glaciers, assuming the latter decreases together with the regional glacier shrinkage. The study demonstrates how air and satellite image archives are exploited to construct one of the longest decennial times series of rock glacier speeds currently available. Our results are in line with findings from Europe about rock glacier speeds increasing with atmospheric warming and underline local variability of such an overall response.

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    Authors: Kääb, Andreas; Jacquemart, Mylène; Gilbert, Adrien; Leinss, Silvan; +11 Authors

    The detachment of large parts of low-angle mountain glaciers resulting in massive ice–rock avalanches have so far been believed to be a unique type of event, made known to the global scientific community first for the 2002 Kolka Glacier detachment, Caucasus Mountains, and then for the 2016 collapses of two glaciers in the Aru range, Tibet. Since 2016, several so-far unrecognized low-angle glacier detachments have been recognized and described, and new ones have occurred. In the current contribution, we compile, compare, and discuss 20 actual or suspected large-volume detachments of low-angle mountain glaciers at 10 different sites in the Caucasus, the Pamirs, Tibet, Altai, the North American Cordillera, and the Southern Andes. Many of the detachments reached volumes in the order of 10–100 million m3. The similarities and differences between the presented cases indicate that glacier detachments often involve a coincidental combination of factors related to the lowering of basal friction, high or increasing driving stresses, concentration of shear stress, or low resistance to exceed stability thresholds. Particularly soft glacier beds seem to be a common condition among the observed events as they offer smooth contact areas between the glacier and the underlying substrate and are prone to till-strength weakening and eventually basal failure under high pore-water pressure. Partially or fully thawed glacier bed conditions and the presence of liquid water could thus play an important role in the detachments. Surface slopes of the detached glaciers range between around 10∘ and 20∘. This may be low enough to enable the development of thick and thus large-volume glaciers while also being steep enough to allow critical driving stresses to build up. We construct a simple slab model to estimate ranges of glacier slope and width above which a glacier may be able to detach when extensively losing basal resistance. From this model we estimate that all the detachments described in this study occurred due to a basal shear stress reduction of more than 50 %. Most of the ice–rock avalanches resulting from the detachments in this study have a particularly low angle of reach, down to around 5∘, likely due to their high ice content and connected liquefaction potential, the availability of soft basal slurries, and large amounts of basal water, as well as the smooth topographic setting typical for glacial valleys. Low-angle glacier detachments combine elements and likely also physical processes of glacier surges and ice break-offs from steep glaciers. The surge-like temporal evolution ahead of several detachments and their geographic proximity to other surge-type glaciers indicate the glacier detachments investigated can be interpreted as endmembers of the continuum of surge-like glacier instabilities. Though rare, glacier detachments appear to be more frequent than commonly thought and disclose, despite local differences in conditions and precursory evolutions, the fundamental and critical potential of low-angle soft glacier beds to fail catastrophically.

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    Authors: Kääb, Andreas; Strozzi, Tazio; Bolch, Tobias; Caduff, Rafael; +3 Authors

    Spatio-temporal patterns of rock glacier creep have rarely been studied outside the densely populated European Alps. This study investigates the spatial and temporal variability of rock glacier motion in the Ile Alatau and Kungöy Ala-Too mountain ranges, northern Tien Shan. Over the study region of more than 3000 km2, an inventory of slope movements is constructed using a large number of radar interferograms and high-resolution optical imagery. The inventory includes more than 900 landforms, of which around 550 are interpreted as rock glaciers. Out of the active rock glaciers, 45 are characterised by a rate of motion exceeding 1 m/a. From these fast rock glaciers we select six and study them in more detail (Gorodetzky, Morenny, Archaly, Ordzhonikidze, Karakoram and Kugalan Tash rock glaciers) using offset tracking between airphotos, and historical and modern very high resolution optical satellite data. Most of them show an overall increase of decadal surface velocities from the 1950s onwards with speeds being roughly two to three times higher in recent years compared to the 1950s and 1960s. This development indicates a possible significant increase in sediment and ice fluxes through rock glaciers and implies that – when compared to glacier shrinkage – periglacial sediment transport in the region seems to gain importance relative to glacial sediment transport. Those rock glacier fronts reaching the valley floors show a strongly compressive flow regime, and changes in speeds further upstream affect them only in a damped way. The only rock glacier investigated in detail that does not exhibit an overall increase in speed since the 1950s is Gorodetsky where glacier retreat and dead-ice degradation seem to have decoupled the rock glacier from its supply by glacial sediments and ice.

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    Authors: Smith-Johnsen, Silje; Fleurian, Basile; Schlegel, Nicole; Seroussi, Helene; +1 Authors

    The Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) currently drains more than 10 % of the Greenland Ice Sheet area and has recently undergone significant dynamic changes. It is therefore critical to accurately represent this feature when assessing the future contribution of Greenland to sea level rise. At present, NEGIS is reproduced in ice sheet models by inferring basal conditions using observed surface velocities. This approach helps estimate conditions at the base of the ice sheet but cannot be used to estimate the evolution of basal drag in time, so it is not a good representation of the evolution of the ice sheet in future climate warming scenarios. NEGIS is suggested to be initiated by a geothermal heat flux anomaly close to the ice divide, left behind by the movement of Greenland over the Icelandic plume. However, the heat flux underneath the ice sheet is largely unknown, except for a few direct measurements from deep ice core drill sites. Using the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM), with ice dynamics coupled to a subglacial hydrology model, we investigate the possibility of initiating NEGIS by inserting heat flux anomalies with various locations and intensities. In our model experiment, a minimum heat flux value of 970 mW m−2 located close to the East Greenland Ice-core Project (EGRIP) is required locally to reproduce the observed NEGIS velocities, giving basal melt rates consistent with previous estimates. The value cannot be attributed to geothermal heat flux alone and we suggest hydrothermal circulation as a potential explanation for the high local heat flux. By including high heat flux and the effect of water on sliding, we successfully reproduce the main characteristics of NEGIS in an ice sheet model without using data assimilation.

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    Authors: Treichler, Désirée; Kääb, Andreas; Salzmann, Nadine; Xu, Chong-Yu;

    We present an updated, spatially resolved estimate of 2003–2008 glacier surface elevation changes for the entire region of High Mountain Asia (HMA) from ICESat laser altimetry data. The results reveal a diverse pattern that is caused by spatially greatly varying glacier sensitivity, in particular to precipitation availability and changes. We introduce a spatially resolved zonation where ICESat samples are grouped into units of similar glacier behaviour, glacier type and topographic settings. In several regions, our new zonation reveals local differences and anomalies that have not been described previously. Glaciers in the Eastern Pamirs, Kunlun Shan and central TP were thickening by 0.1–0.7 m a−1, and the thickening anomaly has a crisp boundary in the Eastern Pamirs that continues just north of the central Karakoram. Glaciers in the south and east of the TP were thinning, with increasing rates towards southeast. We attribute the glacier thickening signal to a stepwise increase in precipitation around ∼1997–2000 on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). The precipitation change is reflected by growth of endorheic lakes in particular in the northern and eastern TP. We estimate lake volume changes through a combination of repeat lake extents from Landsat data and shoreline elevations from ICESat and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation model (DEM) for over 1300 lakes. The rise in water volume contained in the lakes corresponds to 4–25 mm a−1, when distributed over entire catchments, for the areas where we see glacier thickening. The precipitation increase is also visible in sparse in situ measurements and MERRA-2 climate reanalysis data but less visible in ERA-Interim reanalysis data. Taking into account evaporation loss, the difference between average annual precipitation during the 1990s and 2000s suggested by these datasets is 34–100 mm a−1, depending on region, which can fully explain both lake growth and glacier thickening (Kunlun Shan) or glacier geometry changes such as thinning tongues while upper glacier areas were thickening or stable (eastern TP). The precipitation increase reflected in these glacier changes possibly extended to the northern slopes of the Tarim Basin, where glaciers were nearly in balance in 2003–2008. Along the entire Himalaya, glaciers on the first orographic ridge, which are exposed to abundant precipitation, were thinning less than glaciers in the dryer climate of the inner ranges. Thinning rates in the Tien Shan vary spatially but are rather stronger than in other parts of HMA.

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    Authors: Gilbert, Adrien; Sinisalo, Anna; Gurung, Tika R.; Fujita, Koji; +3 Authors

    In cold and arid climates, small glaciers with cold accumulation zones are often thought to be entirely cold based. However, scattering in ground-penetrating radar (GPR) measurements on the Rikha Samba Glacier in the Nepal Himalayas suggests a large amount of temperate ice that seems to be influenced by the presence of crevassed areas. We used a coupled thermo-mechanical model forced by a firn model accounting for firn heating to interpret the observed thermal regime. Using a simple energy conservation approach, we show that the addition of water percolation and refreezing in crevassed areas explains these observations. Model experiments show that both steady and transient thermal regimes are significantly affected by latent heat release in crevassed areas. This makes half of the glacier base temperate, resulting in an ice dynamic mainly controlled by basal friction instead of ice deformation. The timescale of thermal regime change, in response to atmospheric warming, is also greatly diminished, with a potential switch from cold to temperate basal ice in 50–60 years in the upper part of the glacier instead of the 100–150 years that it would take without the effect of the crevasses. This study highlights the crucial role of water percolation through the crevasses on the thermal regime of glaciers and validates a simple method to account for it in glacier thermo-mechanical models.

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    Authors: McNabb, Robert; Nuth, Christopher; Kääb, Andreas; Girod, Luc;

    Glacier mass balance has been estimated on individual glacier and regional scales using repeat digital elevation models (DEMs). DEMs often have gaps in coverage (“voids”), the properties of which depend on the nature of the sensor used and the surface being measured. The way that these voids are accounted for has a direct impact on the estimate of geodetic glacier mass balance, though a systematic comparison of different proposed methods has been heretofore lacking. In this study, we determine the impact and sensitivity of void interpolation methods on estimates of volume change. Using two spatially complete, high-resolution DEMs over southeast Alaska, USA, we artificially generate voids in one of the DEMs using correlation values derived from photogrammetric processing of Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) scenes. We then compare 11 different void interpolation methods on a glacier-by-glacier and regional basis. We find that a few methods introduce biases of up to 20 % in the regional results, while other methods give results very close (<1 % difference) to the true, non-voided volume change estimates. By comparing results from a few of the best-performing methods, an estimate of the uncertainty introduced by interpolating voids can be obtained. Finally, by increasing the number of voids, we show that with these best-performing methods, reliable estimates of glacier-wide volume change can be obtained, even with sparse DEM coverage.

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    Authors: Beer, Christian; Porada, Philipp; Ekici, Altug; Brakebusch, Matthias;

    Effects of the short-term temporal variability of meteorological variables on soil temperature in northern high-latitude regions have been investigated. For this, a process-oriented land surface model has been driven using an artificially manipulated climate dataset. Short-term climate variability mainly impacts snow depth, and the thermal diffusivity of lichens and bryophytes. These impacts of climate variability on insulating surface layers together substantially alter the heat exchange between atmosphere and soil. As a result, soil temperature is 0.1 to 0.8 ∘C higher when climate variability is reduced. Earth system models project warming of the Arctic region but also increasing variability of meteorological variables and more often extreme meteorological events. Therefore, our results show that projected future increases in permafrost temperature and active-layer thickness in response to climate change will be lower (i) when taking into account future changes in short-term variability of meteorological variables and (ii) when representing dynamic snow and lichen and bryophyte functions in land surface models.

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    Authors: Seroussi, Hélène; Nowicki, Sophie; Simon, Erika; Abe-Ouchi, Ayako; +35 Authors

    Ice sheet numerical modeling is an important tool to estimate the dynamic contribution of the Antarctic ice sheet to sea level rise over the coming centuries. The influence of initial conditions on ice sheet model simulations, however, is still unclear. To better understand this influence, an initial state intercomparison exercise (initMIP) has been developed to compare, evaluate, and improve initialization procedures and estimate their impact on century-scale simulations. initMIP is the first set of experiments of the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for CMIP6 (ISMIP6), which is the primary Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) activity focusing on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Following initMIP-Greenland, initMIP-Antarctica has been designed to explore uncertainties associated with model initialization and spin-up and to evaluate the impact of changes in external forcings. Starting from the state of the Antarctic ice sheet at the end of the initialization procedure, three forward experiments are each run for 100 years: a control run, a run with a surface mass balance anomaly, and a run with a basal melting anomaly beneath floating ice. This study presents the results of initMIP-Antarctica from 25 simulations performed by 16 international modeling groups. The submitted results use different initial conditions and initialization methods, as well as ice flow model parameters and reference external forcings. We find a good agreement among model responses to the surface mass balance anomaly but large variations in responses to the basal melting anomaly. These variations can be attributed to differences in the extent of ice shelves and their upstream tributaries, the numerical treatment of grounding line, and the initial ocean conditions applied, suggesting that ongoing efforts to better represent ice shelves in continental-scale models should continue.

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    Copernicus Publications
    Other ORP type . 2019
    0
    citations0