Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2017, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (4): 403-419.doi: 10.1007/s11442-017-1384-6

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Vertical distribution of snow cover and its relation
to temperature over the Manasi River Basin of Tianshan Mountains, Northwest China

Wenlong ZHENG1,2(), Jinkang DU1,2,*(), Xiaobing ZHOU3, Mingming SONG1,2, Guodong BIAN1,2, Shunping XIE1,2, Xuezhi FENG1,2   

  1. 1. Department of Geographic Information Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
    2. Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing 210023, China
    3. Department of Geophysical Engineering, Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Butte, MT 59701, USA
  • Received:2016-03-17 Accepted:2016-06-29 Online:2017-04-20 Published:2017-04-20
  • Contact: Jinkang DU;
  • About author:

    Author: Zheng Wenlong, Master, specialized in snow cover change of remote sensing. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41271353


How snow cover changes in response to climate change at different elevations within a mountainous basin is a less investigated question. In this study we focused on the vertical distribution of snow cover and its relation to elevation and temperature within different elevation zones of distinct climatology, taking the mountainous Manasi River Basin of Xinjiang, Northwest China as a case study. Data sources include MODIS 8-day snow product, MODIS land surface temperature (LST) data from 2001 to 2014, and in situ temperature data observed at three hydrological stations from 2001 to 2012. The results show that: (1) the vertical distribution of snow areal extent (SAE) is sensitive to elevation in low (<2100 m) and high altitude (>3200 m) regions and shows four different seasonal patterns, each pattern is well correspondent to the variation of temperature. (2) The correlation between vertical changes of the SAE and temperature is significant in all seasons except for winter. (3) The correlation between annual changes of the SAE and temperature decreases with increasing elevation, the negative correlation is significant in area below 4000 m. (4) The snow cover days (SCDs) and its long-term change show visible differences in different altitude range. (5) The long-term increasing trend of SCDs and decreasing trend of winter temperature have a strong vertical relation with elevation below 3600 m. The decreasing trend of SCDs is attributed to the increasing trend of summer temperature in the area above 3600 m.

Key words: snow cover, vertical distribution, temperature inversion, Manasi River, correlation analysis