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Hillslope-glacier coupling the interplay of topography and glacial dynamics in High Asia

  • High Asian glacial landscapes have large variations in topographic relief and the size and steepness of snow accumulation areas. Associated differences in glacial cover and dynamics allow a first-order determination of the dominant processes shaping these landscapes. Here we provide a regional synthesis of the topography and flow characteristics of 287 glaciers across High Asia using digital elevation analysis and remotely sensed glacier surface velocities. Glaciers situated in low-relief areas on the Tibetan Plateau are mainly nourished by direct snowfall, have little or no debris cover, and have a relatively symmetrical distribution of velocities along their length. In contrast, avalanche-fed glaciers with steep accumulation areas, which occur at the deeply incised edges of the Tibetan Plateau, are heavily covered with supraglacial debris, and flow velocities are highest along short segments near their headwalls but greatly reduced along their debris-mantled lower parts. The downstream distribution of flow velocities suggests thatHigh Asian glacial landscapes have large variations in topographic relief and the size and steepness of snow accumulation areas. Associated differences in glacial cover and dynamics allow a first-order determination of the dominant processes shaping these landscapes. Here we provide a regional synthesis of the topography and flow characteristics of 287 glaciers across High Asia using digital elevation analysis and remotely sensed glacier surface velocities. Glaciers situated in low-relief areas on the Tibetan Plateau are mainly nourished by direct snowfall, have little or no debris cover, and have a relatively symmetrical distribution of velocities along their length. In contrast, avalanche-fed glaciers with steep accumulation areas, which occur at the deeply incised edges of the Tibetan Plateau, are heavily covered with supraglacial debris, and flow velocities are highest along short segments near their headwalls but greatly reduced along their debris-mantled lower parts. The downstream distribution of flow velocities suggests that the glacial erosion potential is progressively shifted upstream as accumulation areas get steeper and hillslope debris fluxes increase. Our data suggest that the coupling of hillslopes and glacial dynamics increases with topographic steepness and debris cover. The melt-lowering effect of thick debris cover allows the existence of glaciers even when they are located entirely below the snow line. However, slow velocities limit the erosion potential of such glaciers, and their main landscape-shaping contribution may simply be the evacuation of debris from the base of glacial headwalls, which inhibits the formation of scree slopes and thereby allows ongoing headwall retreat by periglacial hillslope processes. We propose a conceptual model in which glacially influenced plateau margins evolve from low-relief to high-relief landscapes with distinctive contributions of hillslope processes and glaciers to relief production and decay.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Dirk Scherler, Bodo BookhagenORCiDGND, Manfred R. StreckerORCiDGND
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1029/2010JF001751
ISSN:0148-0227 (print)
Parent Title (English):Journal of geophysical research : Earth surface
Publisher:American Geophysical Union
Place of publication:Washington
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2011
Year of Completion:2011
Release Date:2017/03/26
Volume:116
Pagenumber:21
Funder:German Science Foundation, DFG [GRK1364]; German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF); German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD); NASA [NNX08AG05G]; NSF [EAR 0819874]; EU
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Geowissenschaften
Peer Review:Referiert