Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 68 ›› Issue (7): 983-993.

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Wide expansion of glacial lakes in Tianshan Mountains during 1990-2010

WANG Xin1,2, WU Kunpeng1, JIANG Lianghong1, LIU Shiyin2, DING Yongjian2, JIANG Zongli1, GUO Wanqin2   

  1. 1. Department of Geography, Hunan University of Science & Technology, Xiangtan 411201, Hunan, China;
    2. Sate Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Science, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2013-03-15 Revised:2013-04-16 Online:2013-07-27 Published:2013-07-27
  • Supported by:
    International Science & Technology Cooperation Program of China, No.2010DFA92720; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41271091; No.41271095; No.41190084

Abstract: The variations and impacts of glacial lakes on glacier melting runoff in the Tianshan Mountains from 1990 to 2010 were assessed on the basis of Landsat TM/ETM images. In the 20 years, glacial lakes in the Tianshan Mountains expanded at a rate of 0.689 km2 a-1 or 0.8% a-1. The glacial lakes in the eastern Tianshan Mountains contributed over half of area expansion at a rate of 0.352 km2 a-1, followed by northern Tianshan Mountains (0.165 km2 a-1), with rates of 0.089 km2 a-1 and 0.083 km2 a-1 in western and central Tianshan respectively. The lake area increased in most of 100-elevation bands except altitudes of <2900 m and >4100 m. The fastest growth bands were observed between 3500 m and 3900 m with an average rate of 1.6% a-1. Both regional warming and wide glacier wastage led to glacial lake expansion, while small and medium-sized (<0.6 km2) lakes were most sensitive to glacier retreat. To some degree, evident glacial lake expansion can slow down regional glacier melting water losses due to climate warming and ~0.006 Gt glacier melting water (or ~2‰ of total glacier melting water) was held in glacial lakes each year in the Tianshan Mountains from 1990 to 2010; however, it may simultaneously increase frequency and damages of the glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) or debris flows in this region.

Key words: Tianshan Mountains, remote sensing, changes, glacial lake