Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (2): 193-205.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1467-z

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Definition and classification system of glacial lake for inventory and hazards study

Xiaojun YAO1(), Shiyin LIU2,3,4, Lei HAN5, Meiping SUN1,4, Linlin ZHAO1,4   

  1. 1. College of Geography and Environment Sciences, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
    2. Yunnan Key Laboratory of International Rivers and Transboundary Eco-security, Kunming 650500, China
    3. Institute of International Rivers and Eco-Security, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China
    4. State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Sciences, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
    5. Geological Survey Institute of Sichuan Province, Chengdu 610081, China
  • Received:2017-04-23 Accepted:2017-06-05 Online:2018-02-10 Published:2018-02-10
  • About author:

    Author: Yao Xiaojun (1980-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in the research of GIS and cryospheric change. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41261016, No.41561016;Opening Foundation Projection of State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Sciences, CAS, No.SKLCS-OP-2016-10;Youth Scholar Scientific Capability Promoting Project of Northwest Normal University, No.NWNU-LKQN-14-4;Geological Survey Project of China Geological Survey, No.DD2016034206


Glacial lakes are not only the important refresh water resources in alpine region, but also act as a trigger of many glacial hazards such as glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) and debris flow. Therefore, glacial lakes play an important role on the cryosphere, climate change and alpine hazards. In this paper, the issues of glacial lake were systematically discussed, then from the view of glacial lake inventory and glacial lake hazards study, the glacial lake was defined as natural water mainly supplied by modern glacial meltwater or formed in glacier moraine’s depression. Furthermore, a complete classification system of glacial lake was proposed based on its formation mechanism, topographic feature and geographical position. Glacial lakes were classified as 6 classes and 8 subclasses, i.e., glacial erosion lake (including cirque lake, glacial valley lake and other glacial erosion lake), moraine-dammed lake (including end moraine-dammed lake, lateral moraine-dammed lake and moraine thaw lake), ice-blocked lake (including advancing glacier-blocked lake and other glacier-blocked lake), supraglacial lake, subglacial lake and other glacial lake. Meanwhile, some corresponding features exhibiting on remote sensing image and quantitative indices for identifying different glacial lake types were proposed in order to build a universal and operational classification system of glacial lake.

Key words: glacial lake, glacier, definition, classification, inventory, hazard