Loss of Glacier Mass in Recent Years Across All of High Mountain Asia

Nature Communications, July 5

This satellite study confirms that the rate of glacier ice loss has substantially increased in seven climatically different regions, spread across the entirety of Central Asia, since the 1960s. Ice loss rates have more than doubled in the Northern Tien Shan during this time period, and have accelerated nearly as much in Western Nyainqentanglha, Poiqu, and Langtang. The highest measured rates of ice loss began in the Central Himalaya and Northern Tien Shan about a decade ago, and continue to this day. Significantly, the only prior exceptions to this pattern, with previously stable or slightly growing glaciers, in western Central Asia such as Eastern Pamir are now also losing ice. This new pattern of loss similarly began about a decade ago, as global mean temperatures passed 1°C of warming. Increasing annual summer temperatures seem the most important factor in both previous and current trends in ice loss across the High Mountain Asia region. Greater understanding of the future response of these glaciers to global warming is paramount due to the fundamental role of these glaciers in sustaining river flow across China, India, Pakistan and all of Southeast and Central Asia.