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Ice velocity and climate variations for Baltoro Glacier, Pakistan

  • D.J. Quincey (a1), L. Copland (a2), C. Mayer (a3), M. Bishop (a4), A. Luckman (a5) and M. Belò (a6)...


The recent dynamic behaviour of Karakoram glaciers is expected to differ from that shown by glaciers in the central and eastern Himalaya because of regional variations in precipitation and temperature trends. However, there are insufficient quantitative data to support or confute such hypotheses. We present velocity data covering the period 1993–2008 for Baltoro Glacier, one of the longest glaciers in the Karakoram. Velocity measurements were made using cross-correlation feature tracking applied to European Remote-sensing Satellite (ERS-1 and -2) and Envisat advanced synthetic aperture radar (ASAR) data, supplemented by differential global positioning system (DGPS) measurements. We find a gradual acceleration of the glacier during the early 2000s, in particular during winter months. Multi-seasonal data reveal a large difference between summer and winter flow characteristics, but only in the upper ablation zone. Summer 2005 was a particularly dynamic period following from the heavy winter snowfall of 2004, indicating the importance of basal meltwater availability for glacier flow. Transverse velocity profiles indicate that Baltoro Glacier undergoes ‘block’ flow across much of the upper ablation zone during the summer, which we interpret as evidence of widespread basal sliding. The DGPS data confirm the rapid increase in flow detected during 2005. Modelled climatic data reveal decreasing summer temperatures and increasing precipitation over the study period, helping to explain the observed dynamic variations and their differences from glaciers elsewhere in the Himalaya.

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