Seasonal Dynamics of a Temperate Tibetan Glacier Revealed by High-Resolution UAV Photogrammetry and In Situ Measurements

Wei Yang, Chuanxi Zhao, Matthew Westoby, Tandong Yao, Yongjie Wang, Francesca Pellicciotti, Jianmin Zhou, Zhen He, Evan Miles

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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The seasonal dynamic changes of Tibetan glaciers have seen little prior investigation, despite the increase in geodetic studies of multi-year changes. This study compares seasonal glacier dynamics (“cold” and “warm” seasons) in the ablation zone of Parlung No. 4 Glacier, a temperate glacier in the monsoon-influenced southeastern Tibetan Plateau, by using repeat unpiloted aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys combined with Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photogrammetry and ground stake measurements. Our results showed that the surveyed ablation zone had a mean change of −2.7 m of ice surface elevation during the period of September 2018 to October 2019 but is characterized by significant seasonal cyclic variations with ice surface elevation lifting (+2.0 m) in the cold season (September 2018 to June 2019) but lowering (−4.7 m) in the warm season (June 2019 to October 2019). Over an annual timescale, surface lowering was greatly suppressed by the resupply of ice from the glacier’s accumulation area—the annual emergence velocity compensates for about 55% of surface ablation in our study area. Cold season emergence velocities (3.0 ± 1.2 m) were ~5-times larger than those observed in the warm season (0.6 ± 1.0 m). Distinct spring precipitation patterns may contribute to these distinct seasonal signals. Such seasonal dynamic conditions are possibly critical for different glacier responses to climate change in this region of the Tibetan Plateau, and perhaps further afield.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2389
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2020


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