Evidence for recent climate change from ice cores in the central Himalaya


Comparison of the terminus locations of Rongbuk Glacier, Mount Everest, measured in 1966 and 1997 shows that in the past 30 years the glacier has retreated 170–270 m, equivalent to a retreat speed of 5.5–8.7 m a−1. During summer 1997, a 15 m firn core was recovered from Dasuopu glacier (28°23′N, 85°44′E; 7000 m a.s.l.) on the northwest margin of Xixabangma Feng, Xizang (Tibet). The seasonal variations of 18O values in the core indicate that monsoon signals are clearly recorded in the glacier. 18O values are controlled by the amount effect in the monsoon season; more negative 18O is representative of the monsoon season in snow layers. Analysis of the relationship between ice-core 18O, sampled from 6500 m a.s.l. on the north side of Mount Everest, and instrumental series representing regional-scale precipitation, atmospheric circulation and temperature suggests a change in the relative influence of these parameters on 18O since the 1940s. The results of the comparison add to and lengthen the sparse array of instrument data available for the Tibetan (Qinghai–Xizang) Plateau and demonstrate a recent decline in moisture flux for at least the southern part of the plateau. Glacier retreat, associated with a recent increase in temperature in the region, is coincident with this period of decreased moisture flux.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

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Annals of Glaciology


International Glaciological Society

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