Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Glacier mass balance in High Mountain Asia inferred from a GRACE release-6 gravity solution for the period 2002–2016


We provide estimates of glacier mass changes in the High Mountain Asia (HMA) area from April 2002 to August 2016 by employing a new version of gravity solutions of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin-satellite mission. We found a total mass loss trend of the HMA glaciers at a rate of –22.17 (±1.96) Gt/a. The largest mass loss rates of –7.02 (±0.94) and –6.73 (±0.78) Gt/a are found for the glaciers in Nyainqentanglha Mountains and Eastern Himalayas, respectively. Although most glaciers in the HMA area show a mass loss, we find a small glacier mass gain of 1.19 (±0.55) and 0.77 (±0.37) Gt/a in Karakoram Mountains and West Kunlun Mountains, respectively. There is also a nearly zero mass balance in Pamirs. Our estimates of glacier mass change trends confirm previous results from the analysis of altimetry data of the ICESat (Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation) and ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) DEM (Digital Elevation Model) satellites in most of the selected glacier areas. However, they largely differ to previous GRACE-based studies which we attribute to our different post-processing techniques of the newer GRACE data. In addition, we explicitly show regional mass change features for both the interannual glacier mass changes and the 14-a averaged seasonal glacier mass changes. These changes can be explained in parts by total net precipitation (net snowfall and net rainfall) and net snowfall, but mostly by total net radiation energy when compared to data from the ERA5-Land meteorological reanalysis. Moreover, nearly all the non-trend interannual mass changes and most seasonal mass changes can be explained by the total net radiation energy data. The mass loss trends could be partly related to a heat effect due to increased net rainfall in Tianshan Mountains, Qilian Mountains, Nyainqentanglha Mountains and Eastern Himalayas. Our new results for the glacier mass change in this study could help improve the understanding of glacier variation in the HMA area and contribute to the study of global change. They could also serve the utilization of water resources there and in neighboring areas.


glaciers; mass balance; GRACE; precipitation; snowfall; radiation energy; High Mountain Asia

First Page


Last Page