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Supraglacial ponds regulate runoff from Himalayan debris-covered glaciers.

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  • Tristam D. L. Irvine-fynn
  • Philip Porter
  • Ann V. Rowan
  • Duncan J. Quincey
  • Morgan J. Gibson
  • Jonathan W. Bridge
  • C. Scott Watson
  • Alun Hubbard
  • Neil F. Glasser
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Original languageEnglish
Article number2017GL075398R
Pages (from-to)11,894-11,904
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Early online date11 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2017


Meltwater and runoff from 1 glaciers in High Mountain Asia is a vital freshwater resource for one fifth of the Earth’s population. Between 13% and 36% of the region’s glacierized areas exhibit surface debris cover and associated supraglacial ponds whose hydrological buffering roles remain unconstrained. We present a high-resolution meltwater hydrograph from the extensively debris-covered Khumbu Glacier, Nepal, spanning a seven-month period in 2014. Supraglacial ponds and accompanying debris cover modulate proglacial discharge by acting as transient and evolving reservoirs. Diurnally, the supraglacial pond system may store >23% of observed mean daily discharge, with mean recession constants ranging from 31 to 108 hours. Given projections of increased debris-cover and supraglacial pond extent across High Mountain Asia, we conclude that runoff regimes may become progressively buffered by the presence of supraglacial reservoirs. Incorporation of these processes is critical to improve predictions of the region’s freshwater resource availability and cascading environmental effects downstream.


This document is the accepted manuscript version. An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2017 American Geophysical Union, Tristam D. L. Irvine-Flynn, et al, ‘Supraglacial Ponds Regulate Runoff From Himalayan Debris-Covered Glaciers’, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 44 (23): 11,894-11,904, December 2017, DOI:

ID: 12818551