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Geography and Environmental Studies


Four tributaries of Panmah Glacier have surged in less than a decade, three in quick succession between 2001 and 2005. Since 1985, 13 surges have been recorded in the Karakoram Himalaya, more than in any comparable period since the 1850s. Ten were tributary surges. In these ten a full run-out of surge ice is prevented, but extended post-surge episodes affect the tributary and main glacier. The sudden concentration of events at Panmah Glacier is without precedent and at odds with known surge intervals for the glaciers. Interpretations must consider the response of thermally complex glaciers, at exceptionally high altitudes and of high relief, to changes in a distinctive regional climate. It is suggested that high-altitude warming affecting snow and glacier thermal regimes, or bringing intense, short-term melting episodes, may be more significant than mass-balance change.


This article was originally published in Journal of Glaciology, 53(181): 181-188. (c) 2007 International Glaciological Society