Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (1): 131-144.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1719-6

• Special Issue: Global and Regional Land Surface Characteristics and Socio-economic Scenarios • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Glacial changes in the Gangdisê Mountains from 1970 to 2016

LIU Juan1, YAO Xiaojun1,*(), LIU Shiyin2,3, GUO Wanqin2, XU Junli4   

  1. 1. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Sciences, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
    3. Institute of International Rivers and Eco-Security, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China
    4. Yancheng Teachers University, Yancheng 224051, Jiangsu, China
  • Received:2019-02-19 Accepted:2019-05-30 Online:2020-01-25 Published:2020-03-25
  • Contact: YAO Xiaojun
  • About author:Liu Juan (1993–), Master Candidate, specializing in the environmental science and geographic information system. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(415610162);National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41861013);National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41801052);National Basic Work Program of MST, No(2013FY111400);Youth Scholar Scientific Capability Promoting Project of Northwest Normal University, No(NWNU-LKQN-14-4)


Based on the revised First Chinese Glacier Inventory (FCGI), the Second Chinese Glacier Inventory (SCGI) and Landsat OLI images for 2015-2016, we analyzed the spatial-temporal variation characteristics of glaciers in the Gangdisê Mountains from 1970 to 2016. The results showed that there were 3953 glaciers with a total area of 1306.45 km 2 and ice volume of ~58.16 km 3 in the Gangdisê Mountains in 2015-2016. Glaciers with sizes of 0.1-5 km 2 and <0.5 km 2 accounted for the largest area and the most amounts of glaciers in the Gangdisê Mountains, respectively. Over the past five decades, the area of glaciers in the Gangdisê Mountains decreased by 854.05 km 2 (-1.09%·a -1), accounting for 39.53% of the total glacier area in 1970. The increase in temperature during the ablation period was the most important cause for glacier retreat. Compared to other mountains in western China, the Gangdisê Mountains have experienced the strongest glacial retreat, and the rate of recession has increased in recent years. The decrease of glacier area was mainly concentrated at elevations of 5600-6100 m, and no change in glacier area was observed at elevations above 6500 m. The number and area of glaciers decreased in all orientations in the Gangdisê Mountains except for south- and southeast-oriented glaciers. Among them, north-oriented glaciers suffered the largest loss of glacier area, while glacier retreat saw the fastest in northwest-oriented glaciers. The rate of glacier retreat increased from west to east in the Gangdisê Mountains. The relative rate of glacier area change was the highest in the eastern section of the Gangdisê Mountains (-1.72%·a -1), followed by the middle section (-1.67%·a -1) and the western section (-0.83%·a -1).

Key words: glacier change, glacier inventory, climate change, Gangdisê Mountains;