PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2013, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (4): 548-559.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2013.04.007

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Variation of West Kunlun Mountains glacier during 1990-2011

LI Chengxiu, YANG Taibao, TIAN Hongzhen   

  1. Institution of Glaciology and Ecogeography, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2012-08-01 Revised:2013-01-01 Online:2013-04-25 Published:2013-04-25

Abstract: Mountain glaciers are a potential climate indicator because they are sensitive to climate changes. The water released from Kunlun Mountains glaciers is the major source of stream flow to the Tarim Basin and nearly 6.3milion people who live in the oasis of Tarim Basin rely on the glacier runoff. Remote sensing has proved to be the best method of investigating the extent of glacial variations in remote mountainous areas. Using remote sensing (RS) and geographical information system (GIS) technologies, we analyzed glacier changes in the Western Kunlun Mountains on the Northwestern Tibetan Plateau. The satellite images (Landsat TM, ETM+) from 1990 to 2011 were used to extract the extent of the glaciers. The results indicated that there was no significant change in glacier area in the study area as a whole, and the glacier area decreased about 16.83 km2 (0.65%) over the 22 years. But the glacier changes were not homogeneous. The changes in single glacier area have differed among the study regions, and some glaciers advanced while other glaciers retreated. ZhongFeng glacier advanced at 661 m/a from 2002 to 2004 and we infer that the ZhongFeng glacier is a surge glacier. Chongce glacier advanced at 200 m/a from 1991 to 1998 and the glacier area increased 9.47 km2. This glacier is characteristic of surge glacier. The temperature showed an increasing trend from 1960 to 2010, while precipitation increased slightly. The Guliya ice core indicates that the temperature and precipitation increased after twenty century. The increase in air temperature resulted in the slight glacier recession. The low retreat rate of the glaciers may be due to two factors: the large scale of the glaciers and the increasing precipitation accompanied by strengthening westerlies.

Key words: advancing glaciers, glacier change, remote sensing monitoring, surge glaciers, West Kunlun Mountains