Snowfall less sensitive to warming in Karakoram than in Himalayas due to a unique seasonal cycle

Nature Geoscience
By: , and 

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Abstract

The high mountains of Asia, including the Karakoram, Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, combine to form a region of perplexing hydroclimate changes. Glaciers have exhibited mass stability or even expansion in the Karakoram region1, 2, 3, contrasting with glacial mass loss across the nearby Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau1, 4, a pattern that has been termed the Karakoram anomaly. However, the remote location, complex terrain and multi-country fabric of high-mountain Asia have made it difficult to maintain longer-term monitoring systems of the meteorological components that may have influenced glacial change. Here we compare a set of high-resolution climate model simulations from 1861 to 2100 with the latest available observations to focus on the distinct seasonal cycles and resulting climate change signatures of Asia’s high-mountain ranges. We find that the Karakoram seasonal cycle is dominated by non-monsoonal winter precipitation, which uniquely protects it from reductions in annual snowfall under climate warming over the twenty-first century. The simulations show that climate change signals are detectable only with long and continuous records, and at specific elevations. Our findings suggest a meteorological mechanism for regional differences in the glacier response to climate warming.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Snowfall less sensitive to warming in Karakoram than in Himalayas due to a unique seasonal cycle
Series title Nature Geoscience
DOI 10.1038/ngeo2269
Volume 7
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 7 p.
First page 834
Last page 840
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