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Climatic and Morphometric explanatory variables of Glacier Changes in the Andes (8-55°S): New insights from machine learning approaches

Abstract : Over the last decades, glaciers across the Andes have been strongly affected by a loss of mass and surface areas. This increases risks of water scarcity for the Andean population and ecosystems. However, the factors controlling glacier changes in terms of surface area and mass loss remain poorly documented at watershed scale across the Andes. Using machine learning methods (Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator, known as LASSO), we explored climatic and morphometric variables that explain the spatial variance of glacier surface area variations in 35 watersheds (1980-2019), and of glacier mass balances in 110 watersheds (2000-2018), with data from 2,500 to 21,000 glaciers, respectively, distributed between 8 and 55°S in the Andes. Based on these results and by applying the Partitioning Around Medoids (PAM) algorithm we identified new glacier clusters. Overall, spatial variability of climatic variables presents a higher explanatory power than morphometric variables with regards to spatial variance of glacier changes. Specifically, the spatial variability of precipitation dominates spatial variance of glacier changes from the Outer Tropics to the Dry Andes (8-37°S) explaining between 49 and 93% of variances, whereas across the Wet Andes (40-55°S) the spatial variability of temperature is the most important climatic variable and explains between 29 and 73% of glacier changes spatial variance. However, morphometric variables such as glacier surface area show a high explanatory power for spatial variance of glacier mass loss in some watersheds (e.g., Achacachi with r2 = 0.6 in the Outer Tropics, Río del Carmen with r2 = 0.7 in the Dry Andes). Then, we identified a new spatial framework for hydro-glaciological analysis composed of 12 glaciological zones, derived from a clustering analysis, which includes 274 watersheds containing 32,000 glaciers. These new zones better take into account different seasonal climate and morphometric characteristics of glacier diversity. Our study shows that the exploration of variables that control glacier changes, as well as the new glaciological zones calculated based on these variables, would be very useful for analyzing hydro-glaciological modelling results across the Andes (8-55°S).
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Submitted on : Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - 2:57:48 PM
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Alexis Caro, Thomas Condom, Antoine Rabatel. Climatic and Morphometric explanatory variables of Glacier Changes in the Andes (8-55°S): New insights from machine learning approaches. Frontiers in Earth Science, 2021, 9, ⟨10.3389/feart.2021.713011⟩. ⟨insu-03706448⟩

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