Nobuk Glacier Retreat, Tamor Basin, Nepal

At the headwaters of the Tamor Basin in eastern Nepal is an unnamed glacier that terminates in an expanding glacial lake. The glacier is referred to as “Nobuk” Glacier here in reference to the nearby named peak on the map. The glacier is upstream of a Chheche Pokhari a lake formed by a glacier outburst flood in 1980. Two arms of the glacier both avalanche fed from the steep border peaks with Tibet. ICIMOD has recently finished a detailed inventory of glacier change in Nepal since 1980. In the Tamor basin they indicate glacier area from 2000 to 2010 has declined from 422 square kilometers to 386 square kilometers. nobuk map
Topographic map showing lake and glacier flow paths

nobuk glacier ge
Google Earth image of area

Here the glacier is examined from 1989 to 2013 using Landsat images. In 1989 the lake had several developing areas amidst the decaying glacier ice, but the glacier still reached to the far eastern shore of the lake. By 2000 Nobuk Glacier terminates at a southeast turn on the south side of the glacial lake it terminates in, red arrow, 500 m from the 1989 terminus. The glacier is fed by two arms, the southern arm has a steeper icefall near the terminus and is narrower. The two arms of the glacier are separated by a buttress, marked with a Pink Point A. This buttress is 750 m from the debris covered ice front. By 2009 the glacier two arms of the glacier are separate and the southern arm no longer reaches the lake. The glacier front has retreated back to the base of the buttress at Point A. By 2013 the lake has more than doubled in length and area since 2000, red arrow at 2000 terminus in each image. The southern arm terminates 150 m from the lake and the debris covered northern arm, though still ending in the lake, it is a very thin low slope terminus that appears to be close to retreating from the lake basin that the glacier has carved. This is evident in the 2010 Google Earth image. The glacier has retreated 500 m from 2000 to 2013. The lake is now 1 km long and has an area of 0.4 square kilometers. The retreat matches that of most Nepal glaciers. This glacier was noted as shrinking from 2.3 to 1.4 square kilometers in area from 1980-2010 by the ICIMOD glacier inventory, they documented a 24% loss in area and 29% in volume during this interval For Nepal’s glaciers. Individual glacier such as Lumding, West Barun, Imja, and Ngozumpa.
nobuk 1989
1989 Landsat image
nobuk 2000
2000 Landsat image

nobuk 2001
2001 Landsat image

nobuk 2009
Landsat image 2009

nobuk 2013
Landsat image 2013

nobuk terminus
Google Earth image 2010

West Barun Glacier Retreat Lake Expansion, Nepal

The West Barun Glacier flows southwest from Baruntse Peak at 7100 meters ending at Barun Khola (lake) at 4500 meters. Comparison of images from 1992, 2003 and 2009 indicate the retreat of the glacier and expansion of the lake. In the early 1990’s the lake was observed to be 1100 meters long with an area of 0.66 square kilometers (ICIMOD, 2010). In 2003 the lake was 1500 meters long. In 2009 the lake was 2000 meters long and had an area of 1.4 square kilometers having doubled in size. In 2013 the maximum length of the lake is 2700 m and the area 1.5 to 1.6 square kilometers. The importance of such lakes impounded in part by moraines, is the potential for glacier lake outburst floods (GLOF). The Barun Khola has no specific date for a GLOF observed, but does pose a risk and has produced floods as indicated by Pradeep Mool (2001) in Figure 1 of the ICIMOD (2010) report, reproduced here, Band C are Barun Khola. ICIMOD has examined this hazard extensively in Nepal and particularly the Dudh Khosi Basin. To date the Dudh Khosi does not have main stem hydropower, but a 210 MW plant is in development. An examination of Landsat imagery from 1992 and 2009 along with Google Earth imagery from 2003 and 2009 is used to identify the retreat. The red line in the Google earth images is the 1992 terminus, the orange line the 2003 terminus and the green line the 2009 terminus. The glacier is outlined in magenta in the Landsat images. The glacier retreated 270 meters, 25 m/year), from 1992 to 2003. From 2003 to 2009 the glacier retreated an additional 480 meter, 80 meters per year. In the 2013 Landsat image the southern portion of the terminus has not markedly retreated since 2009, but the lake expansion continues on the northern shore of the lake., pink arrow.
1992 Landsat image

2003 Google earth image

2009 Google Earth image

2009 Landsat image
barun glacier 2013
2013 Landsat image

A closeup view of the terminus from Google Earth indicates lots of icebergs near the ice front, magenta arrows. The icebergs in the Landsat image later in 2009 have drifted further from the glacier. The angular nature of the icebergs indicates recent large calving event. There are also some small lakes on the surface of the glacier, yellow arrows.
This glaciers retreat and lake expansion is like the nearby North Lhonak Glacier, Middle Lhonak Glacier, Imja Glacier and Nobuk Glacier.

Himalaya Glacier Index

Himalaya-Pamir-Hindu Kush-Tien Shan-Quilian-Karakoram Range Glacier Change

Below is a list of individual glaciers in the Himalaya and high mountains of Central Asia that illustrate what is happening glacier by glacier. In addition to the individual sample glaciers we tie the individual glaciers to the large scale changes of approximately 10,000 glaciers that have been examined in repeat satellite image inventories. In the high mountains of Central Asia detailed glacier mapping inventories, from GLIMS: (Global Land Ice Measurements from Space), ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), ISRO ( Indian Space Research Organisation) and Chinese National Committee for International Association of Cryospheric Science (IACS) of thousands of glaciers have indicated increased strong thinning and area loss since 1990 throughout the region except the Karokoram. The inventories rely on repeat imagery from ASTER, Corona, Landsat, IKONOS and SPOT imagery. It is simply not possible to make observations
on this number of glaciers in the field.

Reqiang Glacier, Tibet———-Ngozumpa Glacier, Nepal
Samudra Tupa, India———-Zemu Glacier, Sikkim
Theri Kang Glacier, Bhutan———-Zemestan Glacier, Afghanistan
Khumbu Glacier, Nepal———-Imja Glacier, Nepal
Gangotri Glacier, India———–Milam Glacier, India
Satopanth Glacier, India———-Kali Gandaki Headwaters, Nepal
Menlung Glacier, Tibet———-Boshula Glaciers, Tibet
Urumquihe Glacier, Tibet———-Sara Umaga Glacier, India
Dzhungharia Alatau, Kazakhstan———-Petrov Glacier,Kyrgyzstan
West Barun Glacier, Nepal—–Malana Glacier, India
Warwan Basin, India—–North Lhonak Glacier, Sikkim
Changsang Glacier, Sikkim——Emend River Headwaters, Afghanistan
Yajun Peak Glacier, Afghanistan—–Godur Glaicer, Pakistan
Tirich Mir, Pakistan—–Longbasba Glacier, Tibet
Lumding Glacier, Tibet—-Rongbuk Glacier, Tibet
Matsang Tsanpo Glacier, Tibet——-Sepu Kangri, China
Jiongla Glacier, Tibet—-Bode Zanbo Headwaters, Tibet
Zayul Chu Headwaters, TibetHkakabo Razi, Myanmar.
Jaonli Glacier, India
In the Russian Altai mapping of 126 glaciers indicate a 19.7 % reduction in glacier area 1952-2004, with a sharp increase after 1997 (Shahgedanova et al., 2010). In Garhwal Himalaya, India, of 58 glaciers examined from 1990-2006 area loss was 6% (Bhambri et al, 2011). They also noted the number of glaciers increased from 69 (1968) to 75 (2006) due to the disintegration of ice bodies. Examination of 466 glaciers in the Chenab, Parbati and Baspa Basin, India found a 21% decline in glacier area from 1962 to 2004 (Kulkarni, 2007). Glacier fragmentation was also observed in this study, which for some fragments represents a loss of the accumulation area, which means the glacier will not survive (Pelto, 2010). The India glacier inventory (ISRO, 2010) identified glacier area losses and frontal change on 2190 glaciers and found an area loss rate of 3.3% per decade and 76% of glaciers retreating. In the Nepal Himalaya area loss of 3808 glaciers from 1963-2009 is nearly 20% (Bajracharya et al., 2011). The Langtang sub-basin is a small northeast-southwest elongated basin, tributary of Trishuli River north of Kathmandu and bordered with China to the north. The basin contained 192 km2 of glacier area in 1977, 171 km2 in 1988, 152 km2 in 2000 and 142 km2 in 2009. In 32 years from 1977 to 2009 the glacier area declined by 26% (Bajracharya et al., 2011). In the Khumbu region, Nepal volume losses increased from an average of 320 mm/yr 1962-2002 to 790 mm/yr from 2002-2007, including area losses at the highest elevation on the glaciers (Bolch et al., 2011). The high elevation loss is also noted in Tibet on Naimona’nyi Glacier which has not retained accumulation even at 6000 meters. This indicates a lack of high altitude snow-ice gain (Kehrwald et al, 2008). The Dudh Koshi basin is the largest glacierized basin in Nepal. It has 278 glaciers of which 40, amounting to 70% of the area, are valley-type. Almost all the glaciers are retreating at rates of 10–59 m/year and the rate has accelerated after 2001 (Bajracharya and Mool, 2009). In the Tien Shan Range over 1700 glaciers were examined from 1970-2000 glacier area decreased by 13%, from 2000-2007 glacier area shrank by 4% a faster rate than from 1970-2000 (Narama et al, 2010).

An inventory of 308 glaciers in the Nam Co Basin, Tibet, noted an increased loss of area for the 2001-2009 period, 6% area loss (Bolch et al., 2010). Zhou et al (2009) looking at the Nianchu River basin southern Tibet found a 5% area loss. 1990-2005. Cao et al, (2010) completed an inventory of 244 glaciers in Lenglongling Range of Eastern Qilian Mountains from 1972 to 2007 and found a 23.5% loss in glacier area. The highest rate of 1% per year of area loss was identified from 2000 to 2007. In the Pumqu Basin, Tibet an inventory of 999 glacier from the 1974 & 1983 to 2001 indicated the loss of 9% of the glacier area and 10% of the glaciers disappeared (Jin et al, 2005).

Pan et al (2011) looking at the Gongga Mountains, China found a 11.3% area loss from 1966-2009. In the Wakhan Corridor, Pamir Range, Afghanistan 30 glaciers were examined over a 27 year period, 1976-2003, indicating that 28 of the glacier retreated with an average retreat of 294 m, just over 10 meters/yr (Haritashya, et al., 2009). The Karokoram is the one range where a mix of expansion and retreat is seen. The anomalous expansions are confined to the highest relief glaciers and appeared suddenly and sporadically (Hewitt, 2005). After decades of decline, glaciers in the highest parts of the central Karakoram expanded, advanced, and thickened in the late 1990s. Many of the largest glaciers in the Karakoram are still retreating including the Baltoro, Panmah and Biafo Glacier, albeit slowly (Hewitt, 2011).

A new means of assessing glacier volume is GRACE, which cannot look at specific changes of individual glaciers or watersheds. In the high mountains of Central Asia GRACE imagery found mass losses of -264 mm/a for the 2003-2009 period (Matsuo and Heki, 2010). This result is in relative agreement with the other satellite image assessments, but is at odds with the recent global assessment from GRACE, that estimated Himalayan glacier losses at 10% of that found in the aforementioned examples for volume loss for the 2003-2010 period (Jacobs et al, 2012). At this point the detailed glacier by glacier inventories inventories of thousands of glaciers are better validated and illustrate the widespread significant loss in glacier area and volume, though not all glaciers are retreating.

This page will continue to be updated as new inventory data is published and new individual glaciers are examined herein. Yao et al (2012) in an examination of Tibetan glaciers observed substantial losses of 7090 glaciers.