Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 72 ›› Issue (9): 1594-1605.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201709005

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatial-temporal variation of glacier resources in ChineseTianshan Mountains since 1959

Wucheng XING1(), Zhongqin LI1,2(), Hui ZHANG2, Mingjun ZHANG1, Pengbin LIANG1, Jianxin MU1   

  1. 1. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Sciences, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2017-04-16 Revised:2017-07-20 Online:2017-09-30 Published:2017-10-12


Based on the glacier inventories and meteorological data, spatial-temporal variations of glaciers in Chinese Tianshan Mountains were analyzed systematically. The results show that: (1) 7934 glaciers with an area of 7179.77 km2 and volume of 756.48 km3 were identified in the study area. The number of glaciers below 1 km2 accounts for the majority part of glaciers in the Chinese Tianshan Mountains. In contrast, glaciers between 1 to 10 km2 and larger than 20 km2 have the largest proportions of the total glacier surface area. The glaciers in the study area are mainly distributed at elevations of 3800-4800 m. (2) In 10 watersheds, the Akesu River Basin contains the most of the glaciers with a surface area of 1721.75 km2, but the Yiwu River Basin has the least glaciers whose surface area is 56.03 km2. There is an obvious difference of glaciers in different regions. In the Akesu region, glacier resource is the most abundant, which accounts for 43.28% and 68.85% in total surface area and volume. In the Turpan region, glacier resource is the least, which accounts for only 0.23% and 0.07% of the total surface area and volume in this region. (3) In the past half century, the loss in glacier area and ice volume were 1619.85 km2 (-18.64%) and 104 km3 (21.63%), respectively. Glaciers smaller than 1.0 km2 constituted the main body of the decreased glacier number. Glaciers below 5 km2 experienced a significant recession. (4) The relative rates of area change for these glaciers were different for different drainage basins. The fastest change of glacier area occurred on the northern slope of the Bogda Basin and the lowest appeared in the Weigan River Basin. The main reason for glacier retreat in this region was that glacier melting caused by rising summer temperatures is greater than glacier mass supply by increased precipitation during the study period.

Key words: glaciers in Tianshan Mountains, glacier variation, glacier inventory, climate change, China