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High-resolution interactive modelling of the mountain glacier–atmosphere interface: an application over the Karakoram

DOI: 10.5194/tcd-7-103-2013

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Abstract:

The traditional approach to simulations of alpine glacier mass balance (MB) has been one-way, or offline, thus precluding feedbacks from changing glacier surface conditions on the atmospheric forcing. In addition, alpine glaciers have been only simply, if at all, represented in atmospheric models to date. Here, we extend a recently presented, novel technique for simulating glacier–atmosphere interactions without the need for statistical downscaling, through the use of a coupled high-resolution mesoscale atmospheric and physically-based mass balance modelling system that includes glacier MB and energy balance feedbacks to the atmosphere. We compare the model results over the Karakoram region of the northwestern Himalaya with both remote sensing data and in situ glaciological and meteorological measurements for the ablation season of 2004. We find that interactive coupling has a localized but appreciable impact on the near-surface meteorological forcing data and that incorporation of MB processes improves the simulation of variables such as land surface temperature and snow albedo. Furthermore, including feedbacks from the MB model has a non-negligible effect on simulated mass balance, reducing modelled ablation, on average, by 0.1 m w.e. ( 6.0%) to a total of 1.5 m w.e. between 25 June–31 August 2004. The interactively coupled model shows promise as a new, multi-scale tool for explicitly resolving atmospheric-MB processes of mountain glaciers at the basin scale.

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