Impact of the Glacial Change on Water Resources in the Tarim River Basin

  • 1. Key Laboratory of Cryosphere and Environment, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China;
    2. Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, CAS, Beijing 100029, China

Received date: 2006-01-08

  Revised date: 2006-02-27

  Online published: 2006-05-25

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.90202013; No.40371026; Knowledge Innovation Project of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.KZCX3-SW-345; No.KZCX3-SW-339; Knowledge Innovation Project of CAREERI, CAS, No. 2004102


The Tarim River Basin, a river system converged by nine source tributaries, is the mostly glacierised watershed in the arid northwest China, where there are 11665 glaciers with a total area of 19878 km2 and a volume of 2313 km3. Glaciers in the basin play a significant role in the water resource formation and variations. An estimation indicated that glaciers provide meltwater of about 133×108 m3 every year, taking 39% of the total river runoff. With the influence of global warming, northwest China has experienced a general warming and drying change of climate since the mid-19th century. However, a so-called “warm and wet transition” of climate in the region has occurred since the late 1980s, exhibiting as an increase both in precipitation and outlet discharge in Xinjiang and neighborhood regions. This paper attempts to reveal how glaciers in the Tarim River Basin response to such a warming and wetting change and what impact glacier changes exert. We analyzed the variations of more than 3000 glaciers since the 1960s by applying topographical maps, high resolution satellite images and aerial photos for the river basin. Results indicate that glaciers in the basin has been mostly in retreat in recent 40 years, and the ice wastage have significantly influenced the variations of water resources in the Tarim River Basin.

Cite this article

LIU Shiyin, DING Yongjian, ZHANG Yong, SHANGGUAN Donghui, LI Jing, HAN Haidong, WANG Jian, XIE Changwei . Impact of the Glacial Change on Water Resources in the Tarim River Basin[J]. Acta Geographica Sinica, 2006 , 61(5) : 482 -490 . DOI: 10.11821/xb200605004


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