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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(12), 1038; doi:10.3390/rs8121038

Elevation Change Rates of Glaciers in the Lahaul-Spiti (Western Himalaya, India) during 2000–2012 and 2012–2013

Institut für Geographie, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Wetterkreuz 15, 91058 Erlangen, Germany
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Academic Editors: Magaly Koch, Richard Gloaguen and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 13 September 2016 / Revised: 12 December 2016 / Accepted: 14 December 2016 / Published: 21 December 2016
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Abstract

Previous studies have shown contrasting glacier elevation and mass changes in the sub-regions of high-mountain Asia. However, the elevation changes on an individual catchment scale can be potentially influenced by supraglacial debris, ponds, lakes and ice cliffs besides regionally driven factors. Here, we present a detailed study on elevation changes of glaciers in the Lahaul-Spiti region derived from TanDEM-X and SRTM C-/X-band DEMs during 2000–2012 and 2012–2013. We observe three elevation change patterns during 2000–2012 among glaciers with different extent of supraglacial debris. The first pattern (<10% debris cover, type-1) indicates maximum thinning rates at the glacier terminus and is observed for glaciers with no or very low debris cover. In the second pattern (>10% debris cover, type-2), maximum thinning is observed up-glacier instead of glacier terminus. This is interpreted as the insulating effect of a thick debris cover. A third pattern, high elevation change rates near the terminus despite high debris cover (>10% debris cover, type-3) is most likely associated with either thinner debris thickness or enhanced melting at supraglacial ponds and lakes as well as ice cliffs. We empirically determined the SRTM C- and X-band penetration differences for debris-covered ice, clean ice/firn/snow and correct for this bias in our elevation change measurements. We show that this penetration bias, if uncorrected, underestimates the region-wide elevation change and geodetic mass balance by 20%. After correction, the region-wide elevation change (1712 km 2 ) was estimated to be −0.65 ± 0.43 m yr 1 during 2000–2012. Due to the short observation period, elevation change measurements from TanDEM-X for selected glaciers in the period 2012–2013 are subject to large uncertainties. However, similar spatial patterns were observed during 2000–2012 and 2012–2013, but at different magnitudes. This study reveals that the thinning patterns of debris-covered glaciers cannot be generalized and spatially detailed mapping of glacier elevation change is required to better understand the impact of different surface types under changing climatic conditions. View Full-Text
Keywords: glacier elevation change; geodetic glacier mass balance; TanDEM-X; InSAR processing; SRTM; Lahaul-Spiti glacier elevation change; geodetic glacier mass balance; TanDEM-X; InSAR processing; SRTM; Lahaul-Spiti
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Vijay, S.; Braun, M. Elevation Change Rates of Glaciers in the Lahaul-Spiti (Western Himalaya, India) during 2000–2012 and 2012–2013. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 1038.

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