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Quantifying Patterns of Supraglacial Debris Thickness and Their Glaciological Controls in High Mountain Asia

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Giese, A 
Liu, Q 


jats:pMapping patterns of supraglacial debris thickness and understanding their controls are important for quantifying the energy balance and melt of debris-covered glaciers and building process understanding into predictive models. Here, we find empirical relationships between measured debris thickness and satellite-derived surface temperature in the form of a rational curve and a linear relationship consistently outperform two different exponential relationships, for five glaciers in High Mountain Asia (HMA). Across these five glaciers, we demonstrate the covariance of velocity and elevation, and of slope and aspect using principal component analysis, and we show that the former two variables provide stronger predictors of debris thickness distribution than the latter two. Although the relationship between debris thickness and slope/aspect varies between glaciers, thicker debris occurs at lower elevations, where ice flow is slower, in the majority of cases. We also find the first empirical evidence for a statistical correlation between curvature and debris thickness, with thicker debris on concave slopes in some settings and convex slopes in others. Finally, debris thickness and surface temperature data are collated for the five glaciers, and supplemented with data from one more, to produce an empirical relationship, which we apply to all glaciers across the entire HMA region. This rational curve: 1) for the six glaciers studied has a similar accuracy to but greater precision than that of an exponential relationship widely quoted in the literature; and 2) produces qualitatively similar debris thickness distributions to those that exist in the literature for three other glaciers. Despite the encouraging results, they should be treated with caution given our relationship is extrapolated using data from only six glaciers and validated only qualitatively. More (freely available) data on debris thickness distribution of HMA glaciers are required.</jats:p>



debris-covered glacier, debris thickness, remote sensing, high mountain asia, glaciological controls

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Frontiers in Earth Science

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Frontiers Media SA


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NERC (NE/S007164/1)
NERC (2429794)