Sep-Dec 2013, Vol. 1, Issue 2


Ice volume estimates for the Himalaya–Karakoram region: evaluating different methods

H. Frey, H. Machguth, M. Huss, C. Huggel, S. Bajracharya, T. Bolch, A. Kulkarni, A. Linsbauer, N. Salzmann, and M. Stoffe

Ice volume estimates are crucial for assessing water reserves stored in glaciers. A variety of different methodologies exist but there is a lack of systematic comparative analysis thereof. Due to its large glacier coverage, such estimates are of particular interest for the Himalayan-Karakoram (HK) region. Here, three volume–area (V–A) relations, a slope-dependent estimation method, and two ice-thickness distribution models are applied to a complete glacier inventory of the HK region. An uncertainty and sensitivity assessment is performed to investigate the influence of the input glacier areas, and model approaches and parameters on the resulting total ice volumes. Results of the two ice-thickness distribution models are validated with local ice-thickness measurements at six glaciers. The resulting ice volumes for the entire HK region range from 2955 km3 to 6455 km3, depending on the approach. Results from the ice thickness distribution models and the slope-dependent thickness estimations agree well with measured local ice thicknesses while V–A relations show stronger deviations. The study provides evidence on the significant effect of the selected method on results and underlines the importance of a careful and critical evaluation. More ice-thickness measurements are needed to improve models and results in the future.