Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2003, Vol. 58 ›› Issue (4): 550-558.doi: 10.11821/xb200304009

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Modern Changes of the Climate and Glaciers in China's Monsoonal Temperate-Glacier Region

HE Yuanqing1, ZHANG Zhonglin1, YAO Tandong1, CHEN Tuo1, PANG Hongxi1, ZHANG Dian2   

  1. 1. Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China;
    2. Department of Geography, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China
  • Received:2002-12-09 Revised:2003-03-23 Online:2003-07-25 Published:2003-07-25
  • Supported by:

    One Hundred Talents Program of CAS, No.CAS2002-43; The NSFC Funds for Famous Young Scientists, No.40071023; Knowledge Innovation Projects of CAREERI, CAS, No.KZCX2-301; No.210506; No.210019


Climatic data, ice core records, the tree ring index and recorded glacier variations have been used to reconstruct a history of climatic and glacial changes in the monsoonal temperate-glacier region of southwestern China during the last 400 years. All the results indicate that the temperature in the region increased in a fluctuating manner during the 20th century, after the two cold stages of the Little Ice Age during the 17th-19th centuries, with a corresponding retreat of most of the glaciers against a background of global warming. However, the amount, trend and amplitude of variation of precipitation have differed in different parts of the region. The climatic records in the Dasuopu ice core, from the Himalaya area in the western part of the region, show a decreasing trend of precipitation, the converse of the trend of temperature. In the Hengduan Mountains and other areas of the eastern part of the region, however, a rising trend of rainfall has accompanied increasing temperatures, as a result of the variable atmosphere circulations from different sources. The data indicate that the southwestern monsoon, which is the principal controlling factor in the Chinese monsoonal temperate-glacier region, can be classified into two parts. One is the Indian monsoon from the Arabian Sea, passing across the Indian Peninsula. This transports the vapour for precipitation in the Himalaya area, the western part of the monsoonal temperate-glacier region. The other part is the Bengal monsoon from the Bay of Bengal, passing over Bangladesh and Burma. This is the major source of precipitation in the Hengduan Mountains and other areas of the eastern part of the region. In addition, the eastern part is influenced by the southeast monsoon from the western Pacific, whilst the western part is affected by the southern branch of the westerly circulation in winter. This complex atmospheric situation results in different patterns of precipitation in the western and eastern zones.

Key words: temperate glacier, monsoonal circulation, climate change, glacier variation