Modelling glacier-bed overdeepenings and possible future lakes for the glaciers in the Himalaya-Karakoram region

A. Linsbauer, H. Frey, W. Haeberli, Horst Machguth, M. F. Azam, S. Allen

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    Surface digital elevation models (DEMs) and slope-related estimates of glacier thickness enable modelling of glacier-bed topographies over large ice-covered areas. Due to the erosive power of glaciers, such bed topographies can contain numerous overdeepenings, which when exposed following glacier retreat may fill with water and form new lakes. In this study, the bed overdeepenings for ∼28000 glaciers (40 775km2) of the Himalaya-Karakoram region are modelled using GlabTop2 (Glacier Bed Topography model version 2), in which ice thickness is inferred from surface slope by parameterizing basal shear stress as a function of elevation range for each glacier. The modelled ice thicknesses are uncertain (±30%), but spatial patterns of ice thickness and bed elevation primarily depend on surface slopes as derived from the DEM and, hence, are more robust. About 16 000 overdeepenings larger than 104m2 were detected in the modelled glacier beds, covering an area of ∼2200 km2 and having a volume of ∼120 km3 (3-4% of present-day glacier volume). About 5000 of these overdeepenings (1800 km2) have a volume larger than 106m3. The results presented here are useful for anticipating landscape evolution and potential future lake formation with associated opportunities (tourism, hydropower) and risks (lake outbursts).
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAnnals of Glaciology
    Issue number71
    Pages (from-to)119-130
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright © The Author(s) 2016 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    • Glacial geomorphology
    • Glaciological model experiments
    • Processes and landforms of glacial erosion


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