Skip to main content

Energy and mass balance of Zhadang glacier surface, central Tibetan Plateau

  • Guoshuai Zhang (a1), Shichang Kang (a1) (a2), Koji Fujita (a3), Eva Huintjes (a4), Jianqing Xu (a5), Takeshi Yamazaki (a6), Shigenori Haginoya (a7), Yang Wei (a1), Dieter Scherer (a8), Christoph Schneider (a4) and Tandong Yao (a1) (a2)...

Climate variables that control the annual cycle of the surface energy and mass balance on Zhadang glacier in the central Tibetan Plateau were examined over a 2 year period using a physically based energy-balance model forced by routine meteorological data. The modelled results agree with measured values of albedo, incoming longwave radiation, surface temperature and surface level of the glacier. For the whole observation period, the radiation component dominated (82%) the total surface energy heat fluxes. This was followed by turbulent sensible (10%) and latent heat (6%) fluxes. Subsurface heat flux represented a very minor proportion (2%) of the total heat flux. The sensitivity of specific mass balance was examined by perturbations of temperature (±1 K), relative humidity (±20%) and precipitation (±20%). The results indicate that the specific mass balance is more sensitive to changes in precipitation than to other variables. The main seasonal variations in the energy balance were in the two radiation components (net shortwave radiation and net longwave radiation) and these controlled whether surface melting occurred. A dramatic difference in summer mass balance between 2010 and 2011 indicates that the glacier surface mass balance was closely related to precipitation seasonality and form (proportion of snowfall and rainfall).

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Energy and mass balance of Zhadang glacier surface, central Tibetan Plateau
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Energy and mass balance of Zhadang glacier surface, central Tibetan Plateau
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Energy and mass balance of Zhadang glacier surface, central Tibetan Plateau
      Available formats
Hide All
Ageta, Y and Higuchi, K (1984) Estimation of mass balance components of a summer-accumulation type glacier in the Nepal Himalaya. Geogr. Ann. A, 66(3), 249255
Andreas, EL (1987) A theory for the scalar roughness and the scalar transfer coefficients over snow and sea ice. Bound.-Layer Meteorol., 38(1–2), 159184 (doi: 10.1007/BF00121562)
Andreassen, LM, Van den Broeke, MR, Giesen, RH and Oerlemans, J (2008) A 5 year record of surface and mass-balance from the ablation zone of Storbreen, Norway. J. Glaciol., 54(185), 245258 (doi: 10.3189/002214308784886199)
Bolch, T and 7 others (2010) A glacier inventory for the western Nyainqentanglha Range and Nam Co Basin, Tibet, and glacier changes 1976–2009. Cryosphere, 4(2), 429467
Bolch, T and 10 others (2012) The state and fate of Himalayan glaciers. Science, 336(6079), 310314 (doi: 10.1126/science.1215828)
Braithwaite, RJ and Olesen, OB (1990) A simple energy-balance model to calculate ice ablation at the margin of the Greenland ice sheet. J. Glaciol., 36(123), 222228
Braithwaite, RJ, Laternser, M and Pfeffer, WT (1994) Variations of near-surface firn density in the lower accumulation area of the Greenland ice sheet, Pâkitsoq, West Greenland. J. Glaciol., 40(136), 477485
Brock, BW, Willis, IC and Sharp, MJ (2000) Measurement and parameterization of albedo variations at Haut Glacier d’Arolla, Switzerland. J. Glaciol., 46(155), 675688 (doi: 10.3189/172756500781832675)
Brutsaert, W (1975) On a derivable formula for long-wave radiation from clear skies. Water Resour. Res., 11(5), 742744 (doi: 10.1029/WR011i005p00742)
Chang, C-P and Chen, GTJ (1995) Tropical circulations associated with southwest monsoon onset and westerly surges over the South China Sea. Mon. Weather Rev., 123(11), 32543267 (doi: 10.1175/1520-0493(1995)123<3254:TCAWSM>2.0.CO;2)
Chen, F, Kang, S, Zhang, Y and You, Q (2009) Glaciers and lake change in response to climate change in the Nam Co Basin, Tibet. J. Mt. Sci. [China], 27(6), 641647
Crawford, TM and Duchon, CE (1999) An improved parameterization for estimating effective atmospheric emissivity for use in calculating daytime downwelling longwave radiation. J. Appl. Meteorol., 38(4), 474480
Curry, JA and Webster, PJ (1999) Thermodynamics of atmospheres and oceans. Academic Press, San Diego, CA
Francou, B, Vuille, M, Wagnon, P, Mendoza, J and Sicart, JE (2003) Tropical climate change recorded by a glacier in the central Andes during the last decades of the twentieth century: Chacaltaya, Bolivia, 16°S. J. Geophys. Res., 108(D5), 4154 (doi: 10.1029/2002JD002959)
Fujita, K (2007) Effect of dust event timing on glacier runoff: sensitivity analysis for a Tibetan glacier. Hydrol. Process., 21(21), 28922896 (doi: 10.1002/hyp.6504)
Fujita, K (2008) Effect of precipitation seasonality on climatic sensitivity of glacier mass balance. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 276(1–2), 1419 (doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2008.08.028)
Fujita, K and Ageta, Y (2000) Effect of summer accumulation on glacier mass balance on the Tibetan Plateau revealed by mass-balance model. J. Glaciol., 46(153), 244252 (doi: 10.3189/172756500781832945)
Fujita, K, Seko, K, Ageta, Y, Pu, J and Yao, T (1996) Superimposed ice in glacier mass balance on the Tibetan Plateau. J. Glaciol., 42(142), 454460
Fujita, K, Ohta, T and Ageta, Y (2007) Characteristics and climatic sensitivities of runoff from a cold-type glacier on the Tibetan Plateau. Hydrol. Process., 21(21), 28822891 (doi: 10.1002/hyp.6505)
Fukami, H, Kojima, K and Aburakawa, H (1985) The extinction and absorption of solar radiation within a snow cover. Ann. Glaciol., 6, 118122
Giesen, RH, Van den Broeke, MR, Oerlemans, J and Andreassen, LM (2008) Surface energy balance in the ablation zone of Midtdalsbreen, a glacier in southern Norway: interannual variability and the effect of clouds. J. Geophys. Res., 113(D21), D21111 (doi: 10.1029/2008JD010390)
Giesen, RH, Andreassen, LM, Van den Broeke, MR and Oerlemans, J (2009) Comparison of the meteorology and surface energy balance at Storbreen and Midtdalsbreen, two glaciers in southern Norway. Cryosphere, 3(1), 5774
Hobbs, PV (1974) Ice physics. Clarendon Press, Oxford
Hock, R (2005) Glacier melt: a review on processes and their modelling. Progr. Phys. Geogr., 29(3), 362391 (doi: 10.1191/0309133305pp453ra)
Hock, R and Holmgren, B (2005) A distributed surface energy-balance model for complex topography and its application to Storglaciären, Sweden. J. Glaciol., 51(172), 2536 (doi: 10.3189/172756505781829566)
Immerzeel, WW, Van Beeke, LPH and Bierkens, MFP (2010) Climate change will affect the Asian water towers. Science, 328(5984), 13821385
Kang, S and 6 others (2009) Correspondence. Early onset of rainy season suppresses glacier melt: a case study on Zhadang glacier, Tibetan Plateau. J. Glaciol., 55(192), 755758 (doi: 10.3189/002214309789470978)
Kang, S, Xu, Y, You, Q, Flügel, W-A, Pepin, N and Yao, T (2010) Review of climate and cryospheric change in the Tibetan Plateau. Environ. Res. Lett., 5(1) (doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/5/1/015101)
Kayastha, RB, Ohata, T and Ageta, Y (1999) Application of a mass-balance model to a Himalayan glacier. J. Glaciol., 45(151), 559567
Kondo, J and Yamazawa, H (1986) Bulk transfer coefficient over a snow surface. Bound.-Layer Meteorol., 34(1–2), 123135
Li, X and 9 others (2008) Cryospheric change in China. Global Planet. Change, 62(3–4), 210218 (doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2008.02.001)
Liu, X and Chen, B (2000) Climatic warming in the Tibetan Plateau during recent decades. Int. J. Climatol., 20(14), 17291742
Marsh, P and Woo, MK (1984) Wetting front advance and freezing of meltwater within a snow cover. 1. Observations in the Canadian Arctic. Water Resour. Res., 20(12), 18531864
Maussion, F and 9 others (2011) Glaciological field studies at Zhadang glacier (5500–6095 m), Tibetan Plateau. In Workshop on the use of automatic measuring systems on glaciers. IASC Workshop, 23–26 March 2011, Pontresina (Switzerland). Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, Utrecht, 6268
Mellor, M (1977) Engineering properties of snow. J. Glaciol., 19(81), 1566
Mölg, T, Georges, C and Kaser, G (2003) The contribution of increased incoming shortwave radiation to the retreat of the Rwenzori glaciers, East Africa, during the 20th century. Int. J. Climatol., 23(3), 291303
Mölg, T, Cullen, NJ, Hardy, DR, Kaser, G and Klok, L (2008) Mass balance of a slope glacier on Kilimanjaro and its sensitivity to climate. Int. J. Climatol., 28, 881892 (doi: 10.1002/joc.1589)
Oerlemans, J (2000) Analysis of a 3 year meteorological record from the ablation zone of Morteratschgletscher, Switzerland: energy and mass balance. J. Glaciol., 46(155), 571579 (doi: 10.3189/172756500781832657)
Oerlemans, J and Knap, WH (1998) A 1 year record of global radiation and albedo in the ablation zone of Morteratschgletscher, Switzerland. J. Glaciol., 44(147), 231238
Pfeffer, WT and Humphrey, NF (1996) Determination of timing and location of water movement and ice-layer formation by temperature measurements in sub-freezing snow. J. Glaciol., 42(141), 292304
Sakai, A, Fujita, K, Duan, K, Pu, J, Nakawo, M and Yao, T (2006) Five decades of shrinkage of July 1st glacier, Qilian Shan, China. J. Glaciol., 52(176), 1116 (doi: 10.3189/172756506781828836)
Sakai, A, Fujita, K, Nakawo, M and Yao, T (2009) Simplification of heat balance calculation and its application to the glacier runoff from the July 1st Glacier in northwest China since the 1930s. Hydrol. Process., 23(4), 585596 (doi: 10.1002/hyp.7187)
Schneider, T and Jansson, P (2004) Internal accumulation in firn and its significance for the mass balance of Storglaciären, Sweden. J. Glaciol., 50(168), 2534 (doi: 10.3189/172756504781830277)
Shi, Y and Liu, S (2000) Estimation on the response of glaciers in China to the global warming in the 21st century. Chinese Sci. Bull., 45(7), 668672 (doi: 10.1007/BF02886048) [in Chinese]
Sicart, JE, Hock, R, Ribstein, P and Chazarin, JP (2010) Sky longwave radiation on tropical Andean glaciers: parameterization and sensitivity to atmospheric variables. J. Glaciol., 56(199), 854860 (doi: 10.3189/002214310794457182)
Sicart, JE, Hock, R, Ribstein, P, Litt, M and Ramirez, E (2011) Analysis of seasonal variations in mass balance and meltwater discharge of the tropical Zongo Glacier by application of a distributed energy balance model. J. Geophys. Res., 116(D13), D13105 (doi: 10.1029/2010JD015105)
Takahashi, S, Ohata, T and Xie, Y (1989) Characteristics of heat and water fluxes on glacier and ground surfaces in the West Kunlun Mountains. Bull. Glacier Res., 7, 8998
US Army Corps of Engineers (1956) Snow hydrology: summary report of the snow investigations. North Pacific Division, US Army Corps of Engineers, Portland, OR
Van de Wal, RSW, Oerlemans, J and Van der Hage, JC (1992) A study of ablation variations on the tongue of Hintereisferner, Austrian Alps. J. Glaciol., 38(130), 319324
Van den Broeke, MR, Van As, D, Reijmer, C and Van de Wal, R (2004) Assessing and improving the quality of unattended radiation observations in Antarctica. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 21(9), 14171431
Wagnon, P, Ribstein, P, Kaser, G and Berton, P (1999) Energy balance and runoff seasonality of a Bolivian glacier. Global Planet. Change, 22(1–4), 4958
Wagnon, P, Ribstein, P, Francou, B and Sicart, JE (2001) Anomalous heat and mass budget of Glaciar Zongo, Bolivia, during the 1997/98 El Niño year. J. Glaciol., 47(156), 2128 (doi: 10.3189/172756501781832593)
Xiao, C and 10 others (2007) Observed changes of cryosphere in China over the second half of the 20th century: an overview. Ann. Glaciol., 46, 382390 (doi: 10.3189/172756407782871396)
Yamazaki, T (2001) A one-dimensional land surface model adaptable to intensely cold regions and its applications in Siberia. J. Meteorol. Soc. Jpn, 79(6), 11071118
Yamazaki, T, Kondo, J, Sakuraoka, T and Nakamura, T (1993) A one-dimensional model of the evolution of snow-cover characteristics. Ann. Glaciol., 18, 2226
Yang, W and 6 others (2011) Summertime surface energy budget and ablation modeling in the ablation zone of a maritime Tibetan glacier. J. Geophys. Res., 116(D14), D14116 (doi: 10.1029/2010JD015183)
Yao, T, Liu, S, Pu, J, Shen, Y and Lu, A (2004) Glacier retreat in high Asia and its impact on water resource of Northwest China. Sci. China D, 34(6), 535543 [in Chinese]
Yatagai, A and Yasunari, T (1998) Variation of summer water vapor transport related to precipitation over and around the arid region in the interior of the Eurasian continent. J. Meteorol. Soc. Jpn, 76(5), 799815
Ye, Q, Kang, S, Chen, F and Wang, J (2006) Monitoring glacier variations on Geladandong mountain, central Tibetan Plateau, from 1969 to 2002 using remote-sensing and GIS technologies. J. Glaciol., 52(179), 537545 (doi: 10.3189/172756506781828359)
You, Q, Kang, S, Li, C, Li, M and Liu, J (2007) Variation features of meteorological parameters at the Nam Co Station, Tibetan Plateau. Meteorol. Monthly, 33(3), 5460 [in Chinese with English summary]
Zhang, Y, Yao, T, Pu, J, Ohata, T, Yabuki, H and Fujita, K (1996) Energy budget at ELA on Dongkemadi glacier in the Tonggula Mts, Tibetan Plateau. J. Glaciol. Geocryol., 18(1), 1019 [in Chinese with English summary]
Zhou, S, Kang, S, Gao, T and Zhang, G (2010) Response of Zhadang glacier runoff in Nam Co Basin, Tibet, to changes in air temperature and precipitation form. Chinese Sci. Bull., 55(20), 21032110
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed