Slight glacier reduction over the northwestern Tibetan Plateau despite significant recent warming

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Wang, Yetang ; Hou, Shugui ; An, Wenling ; Pang, Hongxi ; Liu, Yaping (2016)

"Pamir–Karakoram–Western-Kunlun-Mountain (northwestern Tibetan Plateau) Glacier Anomaly" has been a topic of debate due to the balanced, or even slightly positive glacier mass budgets in the early 21st century. Here we focus on the evolution of glaciers on the western Kunlun Mountain and its comparison with those from other regions of the Tibetan Plateau. The possible driver for the glacier evolution is also discussed. Western Kunlun Mountain glaciers reduce in area by 0.12 % yr−1 from 1970s to 2007–2011. However, there is no significant area change after 1999. Averaged glacier thickness loss is 0.08 ± 0.09 m yr−1 from 1970s to 2000, which is in accordance with elevation change during the period 2003–2008 estimated by the ICESat laser altimetry measurements. These further confirm the anomaly of glaciers in this region. Slight glacier reduction over the northwestern Tibetan Plateau may result from more accumulation from increased precipitation in winter which to great extent protects it from mass reductions under climate warming during 1961–2000. Warming slowdown since 2000 happening at this region may further mitigate glacier mass reduction, especially for the early 21st century.
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