Recent changes in freezing level heights in High Asia and their impact on glacier changes

Shengjie Wang, Mingjun Zhang, N. C. Pepin, Zhongqin Li, Meiping Sun, Xiaoyan Huang, Qiong Wang

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    The heights of the atmospheric freezing level have increased over most glacierized areas of High Asia during 1971–2010, especially in the Altai Mountains, the eastern Tianshan Mountains, and the northeastern margins of the Tibetan Plateau. The systematic increase of freezing level heights (FLHs) is evidenced from both radiosonde and National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis data. Eleven glaciers with long-term observations are selected in typical high-elevation mountain ranges to examine the relationship between changes in FLHs and cryospheric response. Long-term trends in glacier mass balance and equilibrium line altitude (ELA) show significant correlations with changes in FLHs. A rise of 10 m in summer FLH causes mass balance of reference glaciers in High Asia to decrease by between 7 and 38 mm (water equivalent) and ELA to increase by between 3.1 and 9.8 m, respectively, depending on location. Both relationships are statistically significant (p < 0.01) for most reference glaciers. Thus, rapid deglaciation in these high mountain ranges during recent decades is related to the increase in FLH. Similar relationships may exist in other high-elevation glaciers of High Asia with changes in FLHs having significant ecological and social consequences, especially in arid and semiarid regions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1753-1765
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
    Issue number4
    Early online date30 Jan 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2014


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