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Remote Sens. 2018, 10(7), 986; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs10070986

Glacier Change, Supraglacial Debris Expansion and Glacial Lake Evolution in the Gyirong River Basin, Central Himalayas, between 1988 and 2015

1
The Faculty of Geography and Resource Sciences, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610101, China
2
Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
3
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
4
Sino-Nepal Joint Research Center for Geography, Chengdu 610041, China
5
Department of Geography, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
6
Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
7
Department of Earth Sciences, Karakoram International University, Gilgit-Baltistan 15100, Pakistan
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 May 2018 / Revised: 28 May 2018 / Accepted: 20 June 2018 / Published: 21 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mountain Remote Sensing)
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Abstract

Himalayan glacier changes in the context of global climate change have attracted worldwide attention due to their profound cryo-hydrological ramifications. However, an integrated understanding of the debris-free and debris-covered glacier evolution and its interaction with glacial lake is still lacking. Using one case study in the Gyirong River Basin located in the central Himalayas, this paper applied archival Landsat imagery and an automated mapping method to understand how glaciers and glacial lakes interactively evolved between 1988 and 2015. Our analyses identified 467 glaciers in 1988, containing 435 debris-free and 32 debris-covered glaciers, with a total area of 614.09 ± 36.69 km2. These glaciers decreased by 16.45% in area from 1988 to 2015, with an accelerated retreat rate after 1994. Debris-free glaciers retreated faster than debris-covered glaciers. As a result of glacial downwasting, supraglacial debris coverage expanded upward by 17.79 km2 (24.44%). Concurrent with glacial retreat, glacial lakes increased in both number (+41) and area (+54.11%). Glacier-connected lakes likely accelerated the glacial retreat via thermal energy transmission and contributed to over 15% of the area loss in their connected glaciers. On the other hand, significant glacial retreats led to disconnections from their proglacial lakes, which appeared to stabilize the lake areas. Continuous expansions in the lakes connected with debris-covered glaciers, therefore, need additional attention due to their potential outbursts. In comparison with precipitation variation, temperature increase was the primary driver of such glacier and glacial lake changes. In addition, debris coverage, size, altitude, and connectivity with glacial lakes also affected the degree of glacial changes and resulted in the spatial heterogeneity of glacial wastage across the Gyirong River Basin. View Full-Text
Keywords: debris cover; GLOFs; remote sensing; climate change; the Himalayas; Gyirong Pass debris cover; GLOFs; remote sensing; climate change; the Himalayas; Gyirong Pass
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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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Jiang, S.; Nie, Y.; Liu, Q.; Wang, J.; Liu, L.; Hassan, J.; Liu, X.; Xu, X. Glacier Change, Supraglacial Debris Expansion and Glacial Lake Evolution in the Gyirong River Basin, Central Himalayas, between 1988 and 2015. Remote Sens. 2018, 10, 986.

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