Himalayan glaciers experienced significant mass loss during later phases of little ice age

Mayank Shekhar*, Anshuman Bhardwaj, Shaktiman Singh, Parminder S. Ranhotra, Amalava Bhattacharyya, Ashish K. Pal, Ipsita Roy, F. Javier Martín-Torres, María-Paz Zorzano

*Corresponding author for this work

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To date, there is a gap in the data about the state and mass balance of glaciers in the climate-sensitive subtropical regions during the Little Ice Age (LIA). Here, based on an unprecedented tree-ring sampling coverage, we present the longest reconstructed mass balance record for the Western Himalayan glaciers, dating to 1615. Our results confirm that the later phase of LIA was substantially briefer and weaker in the Himalaya than in the Arctic and subarctic regions. Furthermore, analysis of the time-series of the mass-balance against other time-series shows clear evidence of the existence of (i) a significant glacial decay and a significantly weaker magnitude of glaciation during the latter half of the LIA; (ii) a weak regional mass balance dependence on either the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) or the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) taken in isolation, but a considerable combined influence of both of them during the LIA; and (iii) in addition to anthropogenic climate change, the strong effect from the increased yearly concurrence of extremely high TSI with El Niño over the past five decades, resulting in severe glacial mass loss. The generated mass balance time-series can serve as a source of reliable reconstructed data to the scientific community.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10305
Number of pages14
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

We express our gratitude to Prof. Sunil Bajpai, Director, BSIP for providing official permission to publish (vide BSIP/RDCC/89/2016–2017) and necessary facilities to carry out this work. We also thank the PCCFs Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, and DFO Uttarkashi and other forest office staffs of the Indian Himalayan states for their help and providing necessary facilities during tree-ring sampling. We thank Mrs. Meenakshi Joshi (IFS) Uttarakhand for her insights on the topic and constructive suggestions. We thank Prof. Hans W. Linderholm and Prof. Dan J. Smith for sharing the mass balance time-series for Storglaciären (Sweden) and Canadian glaciers, respectively. M.S. acknowledges the financial support by the Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi vide SERB-DST Project No. SR/FTP/ES-127/2014 [Young Scientist Scheme]. P.S.R. extends his sincere acknowledgement to SERB–DST projects SR/DGH/44/2012 and SR/DGH/56/2013 for financial support to carry out this research work.


  • Cryospheric science
  • Enviromental health
  • Enviromental impact
  • Paleoclimate


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