Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2004, Vol. 59 ›› Issue (6): 855-862.doi: 10.11821/xb200406007

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Glacier Changes at the Head of Yurungkax River in the West Kunlun Mountains in the Past 32 Years

SHANGGUAN Donghui, LIU Shiyin, DING Yongjian, DING Liangfu, LI Gang   

  1. Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2004-04-12 Revised:2004-06-05 Online:2004-11-25 Published:2004-11-25
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.90202013; No.40371026; No.40121101; Knowledge Innovation Project of CAS, No.KZCX1-10-06


Recent studies indicate that widespread wastage of glaciers in western China has happened since the late 1970s, but diverse places under different climate settings have marked regional discrepancy as to the amplitude in glacier shrinkages. In the present study, we investigate the changes of glaciers at the head of Yurungkax river (centered at 35o40'N, 81oE) in the heavily glaciated West Kunlun Mts. by using aerial photos (1970), Landsat TM (1989) and ETM+ (2001) imageries. A comparative analysis performed for glacier length/area variations since 1970 in the West Kunlun Mts. shows that the prevailing characteristic of glacier variation is ice wastage, however, changes in glacier area are very small in this region. Results indicate that a small enlargement of ice extent during 1970-1989 was followed by a reduction of over 0.5% during 1989-2001. It concludes that the enlargement of glaciers during 1970-1989 might be caused by the decrease in air temperature and the increase in precipitation during the 1960s and that glacier shrinkage during 1989-2001 might be reaction to increase in air temperature, but abundant precipitation acts as a role of buffer in variations of surface mass balance of glaciers in the research region.

Key words: the head of Yurungkax River, glacier, remote sensing, geographical information system