04 Jun 2024
 | 04 Jun 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Linking Glacier Retreat with Climate Change on the Tibetan Plateau through Satellite Remote Sensing

Fumeng Zhao, Wenping Gong, Silvia Bianchini, and Zhongkang Yang

Abstract. Under global climate change, glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau are experiencing severe retreat, which significantly impacts the regional water cycle and the occurrence of natural hazards. However, detailed insights into the spatial-temporal patterns of this retreat and its climatic drivers remain insufficiently explored. In this study, an Adaptive Glacier Extraction Index (AGEI) is proposed based on analysis of multispectral Landsat images integrated with the Google Earth Engine, and comprehensive and high-resolution mapping of glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau is realized at five-year intervals from 1988 to 2022; subsequently, the ERA5-Land air temperature and precipitation data are downscaled to a finer 1-km resolution; finally, impacts of the annual and seasonal change of downscaled meteorological factors on the glacier retreat are quantified. Results demonstrated a rapid yet heterogeneous pattern of glacier retreat across the Tibetan Plateau between 1988 and 2022, with retreat rates ranging from 0.14 ± 0.07 % to 0.51 ± 0.09 % annually. A notable trend was observed where most glacier areas experienced a decrease from 1990 to 2000, followed by a slight increase. From 2010, a majority of the glaciers exhibited either a static state or minimal retreat. The most pronounced impact of annual temperature on glacier retreat is observed in Zone VIII, with a value of -9.34 × 103 km2/°C, and the most restraining impact of precipitation on glacier retreat reaches 261 km2/m, which is observed in Zone VI for the spring season. Further, it identifies the influence of debris thickness on the glacier retreat rate. These insights are pivotal in comprehending the temporal and spatial heterogeneity of glacier retreats, and in understanding the effects of climatic variations on the state of glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau.

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Fumeng Zhao, Wenping Gong, Silvia Bianchini, and Zhongkang Yang

Status: open (until 16 Jul 2024)

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Fumeng Zhao, Wenping Gong, Silvia Bianchini, and Zhongkang Yang
Fumeng Zhao, Wenping Gong, Silvia Bianchini, and Zhongkang Yang


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Short summary
Glacier retreat patterns and climatic drivers on the Tibetan Plateau are uncertain at finer resolutions. This study introduces a new glacier mapping method covering 1988 to 2022, with downscaled air temperature and precipitation data. It quantifies the impacts of annual and seasonal temperature and precipitation on retreat. Results show rapid and varied retreat, with annual temperature influencing retreat in the west and spring precipitation in the northwest.