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Understanding glaciers and hydrological changes in the Tibetan Plateau using high resolution monitoring and modelling

 

Glaciers are changing worldwide in response to a warming climate, with a dominant signal of mass loss and shrinking. The magnitude of changes in High Mountain Asia (HMA) is however not known, because of scarce data, difficult accessibility, and the complex interaction between climate and glaciers. As a result, the importance of such changes for water resources and their impact on the climate and land surface is little known, despite their crucial importance as water towers for downstream populations.

 

The main aim of this project is to build capacity to advance our understanding of how glaciers and water resources are changing in response to a changing climate in two catchments of the Tibetan Plateau (TP), representative of different climates and glacier characteristics. A key feature of many HMA glaciers is debris cover on their surface, which modifies the exchange of energy with the atmosphere and thus glacier ablation and mass balance. We will collect novel data of surface changes using drone and terrestrial photogrammetry, of meteorology and runoff, on a debris-free and a debris-covered glacier. We will use these data to understand the processes controlling glacier ablation in the two regions and will apply advanced models of glacier mass balance and a glacio-hydrological model for runoff simulations. The project will considerably advance our understanding of the cryosphere and hydrology of high elevation catchments in one of the first inter-comparative studies in the TP.