11 Oct 2022
11 Oct 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Interdecadal glacier inventories in the Karakoram since the 1990s

Fuming Xie1,2, Shiyin Liu1,2,3, Yongpeng Gao1,2, Yu Zhu1,2, Tobias Bolch4, Andreas Kääb5, Shimei Duan1,2, Wenfei Miao1,2, Jianfang Kang6,7, Yaonan Zhang6,7, Xiran Pan1,2, Caixia Qin1,2, Kunpeng Wu1,2, Miaomiao Qi1,2, Xianhe Zhang1,2, Ying Yi1,2, Fengze Han1,2, Xiaojun Yao8, Qiao Liu9, Xin Wang10, Zongli Jiang10, Donghui Shangguan3, Yong Zhang10, Richard Grünwald2, Muhammad Adnan1,2, Jyoti Karki1,2, and Muhammad Saifullah11 Fuming Xie et al.
  • 1Yunnan Key Laboratory of International Rivers and Transboundary Eco-Security, Yunnan University, Kunming 650500, China
  • 2Institute of International Rivers and Eco-security, Yunnan University, Kunming, Yunnan 650500, China
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 4School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY19 9AL, Scotland, United Kingdom
  • 5Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, 0316, Norway
  • 6Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 7National Cryosphere Desert Data Center, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 8College of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • 9Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
  • 10School of Resource Environment and Safety Engineering, Hunan University of Science and Technology, Xiangtan, China
  • 11Department of Agricultural Engineering, Muhammad Nawaz Shareef University of Agriculture, Multan, Pakistan

Abstract. Multi-temporal glacier inventories provide key information about the glaciers, their characteristics and changes and are inevitable for glacier modelling and investigating geodetic mass changes. However, to date, no consistent multi-tempo glacier inventory for the whole of the Karakoram exists, negatively affecting the monitoring of spatiotemporal variations of glaciers’ geometric parameters and their related applications. We used a semi-automatic method combining automatic segmentation and manual correction and produced multi-temporal Karakoram glacier inventories (KGI) compiled from Landsat TM/ETM+/OLI images for the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Our assessments using independent multiple digitization of 37 glaciers show that the KGI is sufficiently accurate, with an overall uncertainty of ±3.68 %. We also performed uncertainty evaluation for the contiguous glacier polygons using a buffer of half a pixel, which resulted in an average mapping uncertainty of ±3.68 %. We calculated more than 20 attributes for each glacier, including coordinates, area, supraglacial debris area, date information, and topographic parameters derived from the ASTER GDEM. According to the KGI-2020, approximately 10500 alpine glaciers (> 0.01 km2 each) cover an area of 22510 ± 828 km2 of which 10.18 ± 0.38 % (2290 ± 84 km2) are covered by supraglacial debris. Over the past three decades, the glaciers experienced a loss of clean ice/snow area but a gain in supraglacial debris. Supraglacial debris cover has increased by 17.63 ± 1.44 % (343.30 ± 27.95 km2) while non-debris-covered glaciers decreased by 1.56 ± 0.0.24 % (319.85 ± 49.92 km2). The total glacier area was relatively stable and showed only a slight insignificant increase of 23.45 ± 28.85 km2 (0.10 ± 0.13 %). The glacier area has declined by 3.27 ± 0.24 % in the eastern Karakoram while the glacier area slightly increased in central (0.65 ± 0.10 %) and western Karakoram (1.26 ± 0.11 %). Supraglacial debris has increased over whole Karakoram, especially in areas above 4200 m a.s.l., showing an upward shift. The glacier area changes were characterized by strong spatial heterogeneity, influenced by surging and advancing glaciers. However, due to global warming, the glaciers are on average retreating. This is in particular true for small and debris-free glaciers. The multi-temporal KGI data are available at the National Cryosphere Desert Data Center of China: (Xie et al., 2022a).

Fuming Xie et al.

Status: open (until 11 Dec 2022)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2022-265', Anonymous Referee #1, 14 Oct 2022 reply

Fuming Xie et al.

Model code and software

The multitemporal KGI data Xie et al., 2022

Fuming Xie et al.


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Short summary
In this study, first we generated inventories which allowed us to systematically detect glacier change patterns in the Karakoram range. We found that, by the 2020s, there were approximately 10 500 glaciers in the Karakoram mountains, covering an area of 22 510.73 square kilometers of which ~10.2 % is covered by debris. During the past 30 years, the total glacier cover area in Karakoram remained relatively stable from 1990 to 2020, with a slight increase in area of 23.5 square kilometers.