Agricultural Irrigation in NW China Creates Unexpected Glacier Growth in Western Himalayas

The Cryosphere, September 24
While most glaciers are losing mass, the Kunlun Shan and Karakoram mountain range contains glaciers that are stable or growing due to increased snowfall, linked in this study to extensive agricultural irrigation in the Tamir and Junggar Basins.  Greater rates of evapotranspiration from plants in these irrigated lowlands lead to increases in both summer precipitation and winter snowfall, adding mass to glaciers and forming an insulating layer protecting the ice from summer melt. This moisture from plants also leads to heavier cloud cover, reducing incoming solar radiation and lowering surface air temperature. However, depletion of regional groundwater used for much of this intense irrigation questions the sustainability of this water use over time, and could push these glaciers into retreat.

Compiled by Amy Imdieke.

By Amy Imdieke, Global Outreach Director, and Pam Pearson, Director of ICCI.
Published Oct. 31, 2020      Updated Jul. 12, 2022 3:22 pm