Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
The Cryosphere, 9, 1213-1222, 2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
15 Jun 2015
Dramatic loss of glacier accumulation area on the Tibetan Plateau revealed by ice core tritium and mercury records
S. Kang1,2, F. Wang3, U. Morgenstern4, Y. Zhang1, B. Grigholm5, S. Kaspari6, M. Schwikowski7, J. Ren1, T. Yao1,2, D. Qin1, and P. A. Mayewski5 1State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
2CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
3Centre for Earth Observation Science, Department of Environment and Geography, and Department of Chemistry, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada
4Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, National Isotope Centre, Lower Hutt 5040, New Zealand
5Climate Change Institute and Department of Earth Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5790, USA
6Department of Geological Sciences, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA 98926, USA
7Paul Scherrer Institute, 5232 Villigen, Switzerland
Abstract. Two ice cores were retrieved from high elevations (~5800 m a.s.l.) at Mt. Nyainqêntanglha and Mt. Geladaindong in the southern and central Tibetan Plateau region. The combined tracer analysis of tritium (3H), 210Pb and mercury, along with other chemical records, provided multiple lines of evidence supporting that the two coring sites had not received net ice accumulation since at least the 1950s and 1980s, respectively. These results implied an annual ice loss rate of more than several hundred millimeter water equivalent over the past 30–60 years. Both mass balance modeling at the sites and in situ data from the nearby glaciers confirmed a continuously negative mass balance (or mass loss) in the region due to dramatic warming in recent decades. Along with a recent report on Naimona'nyi Glacier in the Himalayas, the findings suggest that the loss of accumulation area of glacier is a possibility from the southern to central Tibetan Plateau at high elevations, probably up to about 5800 m a.s.l. This mass loss raises concerns over the rapid rate of glacier ice loss and associated changes in surface glacier runoff, water availability, and sea levels.

Citation: Kang, S., Wang, F., Morgenstern, U., Zhang, Y., Grigholm, B., Kaspari, S., Schwikowski, M., Ren, J., Yao, T., Qin, D., and Mayewski, P. A.: Dramatic loss of glacier accumulation area on the Tibetan Plateau revealed by ice core tritium and mercury records, The Cryosphere, 9, 1213-1222,, 2015.
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