Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 70 ›› Issue (9): 1402-1414.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201509004

• Climate Change • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Glacier changes in the Qilian Mountains in the past half century: Based on the revised First and Second Chinese Glacier Inventory

Meiping SUN1,2(), Shiyin LIU2(), Xiaojun YAO1, Wanqin GUO2, Junli XU2   

  • Received:2015-04-26 Revised:2015-06-19 Online:2015-09-20 Published:2015-09-20
  • Supported by:
    National Basic Work Program of MST, No.2013FY111400;National Major Sciences Research, No.2010CB951401;National Science-technology Support Plan Project, No.2012BAC19B07;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41261016;Scientific Research Project of Higher Learning Institution in Gansu Province, No.2014A-001, No.2013A-018


According to the Second Chinese Glacier Inventory (SCGI) that were mostly compiled based on Landsat TM/ETM+images, the Qilian Mountains contained 2684 glaciers covering an area of 1597.81±70.30βkm2 and ice volume of ~84.48βkm3 from 2005 to 2010. While most glaciers are small (85.66% are smaller than 1.0βkm2), some larger ones (12.74%, with each having 1.0 and 5.0βkm2) cover 42.44% of the total glacier area. The Laohugou No.12 Glacier (20.42βkm2) located on the north slope of the Daxue Range is the only one larger than 20 km2 in the Qilian Mountains. The average median altitude of glacier was 4972.7βm a.s.l. and gradually rose from east to west. Glaciers in the Qilian Mountains are mostly distributed in Gansu and Qinghai provinces, which have 1492 glaciers (760.96βkm2) and 1192 glaciers (836.85βkm2), respectively. In 11 watersheds, the Shule River contains most of the glaciers in either area or volume. However, the Heihe River, the second longest interior river in China, has the minimum average area of glacier. Comparison of glaciers from the SCGI and the revised glacier inventory based on topographic maps and aerial photos taken from 1956 to 1983 indicated that all the glaciers in the Qilian Mountains were receding, which is consistent with other mountains and plateaus in western China. In the past half century, the area and volume of glaciers decreased by 420.81βkm2 (-20.88%) and 21.63βkm3 (-20.26%), respectively. The glaciers which are smaller than 1.0βkm2 constituted the main body of glacier number depression and area recession. Due to shrinkage, the glaciers below 4000βm a.s.l. completely disappeared.

Key words: glacier, glacier inventory, glacier volume, climate change, Qilian Mountains