Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Present and former equilibrium-line altitudes near Mount Everest, Nepal and Tibet

January 1, 1983

New information on equilibrium-line altitudes (ELAs) of present and former glaciers in the Mount Everest area of eastern Nepal and southern Tibet has been derived from field mapping and interpretation of topographic maps and Landsat imagery. Present ELAs rise from south to north across the Himalayan Range from 5200 to 5800 m, as indicated by the altitudes of lowest cirque glaciers and highest lateral and medial moraines on valley glaciers. In contrast, ELAs during maximum late Pleistocene glaciation rose in altitude from 4300 to 5500 m across the range, as indicated by altitudes of lowest cirque floors and maximum extent of glacial deposits. Highest ELAs occurred on previously unrecognized ice caps that formerly covered extensive highland areas in Tibet north of the range crest. During four distinct Holocene glacial advances of subequal magnitude, ELAs were depressed about 30% as much as the late Pleistocene maximum depression. Depression of ELAs during the late Pleistocene glaciation was about twice as great south of the range crest (950 m) as north of it (400 m). Although the present northward decrease in precipitation causes ELAs to rise northward for 85 km at 7.1 m km-1, the gradient during maximum late Pleistocene glaciation was 11 m km-1. Such a great contrast in glacier response to climate change over a short distance is remarkable and probably reflects increased aridity on the Tibetan Plateau and increased climatic contrast across the Himalayan Range during glacial ages.

Publication Year 1983
Title Present and former equilibrium-line altitudes near Mount Everest, Nepal and Tibet
DOI 10.2307/1550922
Authors V. S. Williams
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Arctic and Alpine Research
Index ID 70011270
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse