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Differences in mass balance behavior for three glaciers from different climatic regions on the Tibetan Plateau

Zhu, Meilin, Yao, Tandong, Yang, Wei, Xu, Baiqing, Wu, Guanjian, Wang, Xiaojun
Climate dynamics 2018 v.50 no.9-10 pp. 3457-3484
air temperature, climatic factors, energy, glaciers, global warming, humidity, melting, meteorological data, models, snow, China
Glacier mass balance shows a spatially heterogeneous pattern in response to global warming on the Tibetan Plateau (TP), and the climate mechanisms controlling this pattern require further study. In this study, three glaciers where systematic glaciological and meteorological observations have been carried out were selected, specifically Parlung No. 4 (PL04) and Zhadang (ZD) glaciers on the southern TP and Muztag Ata No. 15 (MZ15) glacier in the eastern Pamir. The characteristics of the mass and energy balances of these three glaciers during the periods between October 1th, 2008 and September 23rd, 2013 were analyzed and compared using the energy and mass balance model. Results show that differences in surface melt, which mainly result from differences in the amounts of incoming longwave radiation (L ᵢₙ) and outgoing shortwave radiation (S ₒᵤₜ), represent the largest source of the observed differences in mass balance changes between PL04 and ZD glaciers and MZ15 glacier, where air temperature, humidity, precipitation and cloudiness are dramatically different. In addition, sensitivity experiments show that mass balance sensitivity to air temperature change is remarkably higher than that associated with precipitation change on PL04 and ZD glaciers, in contrast results from MZ15 glacier. And significantly higher sensitivities to air temperature change are noted for PL04 and ZD glaciers than for MZ15 glacier. These significant differences in the sensitivities to air temperature change are mainly caused by differences in the ratio of snowfall to precipitation during the ablation season, melt energy (L ᵢₙ +S ₒᵤₜ) during the ablation season and the seasonality of precipitation among the different regions occupied by glaciers. In turn, these conditions are related to local climatic conditions, especially air temperature. These factors can be used to explain the different patterns of change in Tibetan glacier mass balance under global warming.