Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2012, Vol. 22 ›› Issue (5): 771-780.doi: 10.1007/s11442-012-0962-x

• Climate Change •     Next Articles

Changes of the hydrological cycle in two typical Chinese monsoonal temperate glacier basins: A response to global warming?

PANG Hongxi1, LI Zongxing2,3, Wilfred H. THEAKSTONE4   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Coast and Island Development of Ministry of Education, School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China;
    2. Gansu Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering Research Center/Alashan Desert Eco-hydrology Experimental Research Station, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China;
    3. Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China;
    4. School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, England, UK
  • Received:2011-10-20 Revised:2011-12-22 Online:2012-10-15 Published:2012-10-15


Studying the response to warming of hydrological systems in China’s temperate glacier region is essential in order to provide information required for sustainable development. The results indicated the warming climate has had an impact on the hydrological cycle. As the glacier area subject to melting has increased and the ablation season has become longer, the contribution of meltwater to annual river discharge has increased. The earlier onset of ablation at higher elevation glaciers has resulted in the period of minimum discharge occurring earlier in the year. Seasonal runoff variations are dominated by snow and glacier melt, and an increase of meltwater has resulted in changes of the annual water cycle in the Lijiang Basin and Hailuogou Basin. The increase amplitude of runoff in the downstream region of the glacial area is much stronger than that of precipitation, resulting from the prominent increase of meltwater from glacier region in two basins. Continued observations in the glacierized basins should be undertaken in order to monitor changes, to reveal the relationships between climate, glaciers, hydrology and water supplies, and to assist in maintaining sustainable regional development.

Key words: global warming, hydrological cycle, temperate glacier basins