Climate Change and Glacier Area Shrinkage in the Qilian Mountains, China, from 1956 to 2010 (2014)

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Glaciers in the Qilian mountains, located in the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau, constitute an important freshwater resource for downstream populations and natural systems. To enhance our understanding of the variability of the glaciers, temporally and spatially comprehensive information on them is needed. In this study, the glacier outlines of 1990, 2000 and 2010 for the whole area were delineated in a semi-automated manner using band TM3/TM5 ratio images of Landsat ETM+ or TM scenes with the help of a merged ASTER GDEM/SRTM v4.1 digital elevation model. Combining our own results with those of previously published studies that span the period back to 1956, we found that the glacier area shrank by 30 8% from 1956 to 2010 and the shrinkage accelerated remarkably in the past two decades. The linear trends of annual air temperature and precipitation measured at weather stations within the glacierized areas were 0.03–0.058C a–1 (significant only after 2000) and 0.37–1.58 mm a–1 (not significant) respectively from 1961 to 2010. Glaciers shrank mainly due to the increasing temperature. Glaciers in the Qilian mountains are very unlikely to have experienced positive mass balance over the past decade. Moreover, given the trend toward higher temperatures, the glaciers in this region will continue to shrink.
Year: 2014
Language: English
In: Annals of Glaciology, 55 (66): 187 p.

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 Record created 2014-04-10, last modified 2014-09-11