Climate Change and Disasters

Glacier area variation and climate change in the Chinese Tianshan Mountains since 1960

  • 1. College of Geography and Environment Sciences, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China;
    2. State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences / Tianshan Glaciological Station, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China

Received date: 2010-10-29

  Revised date: 2010-12-16

  Online published: 2011-04-15

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40701035; No.40631001; No.40571033; No.40701034; No.J0630966; Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University by the Ministry of Education, No.NCET-10-0019; Foundation for Young Innovative Scientists in Gansu Province; National Basic Research Program of China, No.2010CB951003; No.2007CB411501; Knowledge Innovation Project of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.KZCX2-YW-127; Independent Research Program of State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences of Chinese Academy of Sciences; Knowledge and Technological Innovation Project of Northwest Normal University, No.NWNU-KJCXGC-03-66


Based on the statistics of glacier area variation measured in the Chinese Tianshan Mountains since 1960, the response of glacier area variation to climate change is discussed systematically. As a result, the total area of the glaciers has been reduced by 11.5% in the past 50 years, which is a weighted percentage according to the glacier area variations of 10 drainage basins separated by the Glacier Inventory of China (GIC). The annual percentage of area changes (APAC) of glaciers in the Chinese Tianshan Mountains is 0.31% after the standardization of the study period. The APAC varies widely for different drainage basins, but the glaciers are in a state of rapid retreat, generally. According to the 14 meteorological stations in the Chinese Tianshan Mountains, both the temperature and precipitation display a marked increasing tendency from 1960 to 2009 at a rate of 0.34℃·(10a)-1 and 11 mm·(10a)-1, respectively. The temperature in the dry seasons (from November to March) increases rapidly at a rate of 0.46℃·(10a)-1, but the precipitation grows slowly at 2.3 mm·(10a)-1. While the temperature in the wet seasons (from April to October) grows at a rate of 0.25 ℃·(10a)-1, but the precipitation increases at 8.7 mm·(10a)-1. The annual and seasonal climatic trends accelerate the retreat of glaciers.

Cite this article

WANG Shengjie, ZHANG Mingjun, LI Zhongqin, WANG Feiteng, LI Huilin, LI Yaju, HUANG Xiaoyan . Glacier area variation and climate change in the Chinese Tianshan Mountains since 1960[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2011 , 21(2) : 263 -273 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-011-0843-8


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