Vulnerability of Mountain Glaciers in China to Climate Change (2015)

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Mountain glaciers in China are an important water source for both China and adjoining countries, and therefore their adaptation to glacier change is crucial in relation to maintaining populations. This study aims to improve our understanding of glacial vulnerability to climate change to establish adaptation strategies. A glacial numerical model is developed using spatial principle component analysis (SPCA) supported by remote sensing (RS) and geographical information system (GIS) technologies. The model contains nine factors—slope, aspect, hillshade, elevation a.s.l., air temperature, precipitation, glacial area change percentage, glacial type and glacial area, describing topography, climate, and glacier characteristics. The vulnerability of glaciers to climate change is evaluated during the period of 1961–2007 on a regional scale, and in the 2030s and 2050s based on projections of air temperature and precipitation changes under the IPCC RCP6.0 scenario and of glacier change in the 21st century. Glacial vulnerability is graded into five levels: potential, light, medial, heavy, and very heavy, using natural breaks classification (NBC). The spatial distribution of glacial vulnerability and its temporal changes in the 21st century for the RCP6.0 scenario are analyzed, and the factors influencing vulnerability are discussed. Results show that mountain glaciers in China are very vulnerable to climate change, and 41.2% of glacial areas fall into the levels of heavy and very heavy vulnerability in the period 1961–2007. This is mainly explained by topographical exposure and the high sensitivity of glaciers to climate change. Trends of glacial vulnerability are projected to decline in the 2030s and 2050s, but a declining trend is still high in some regions. In addition to topographical factors, variation in precipitation in the 2030s and 2050s is found to be crucial.
Year: 2015
Language: English
In: Advances in Climate Change Research, 6 (3–4): 171-180 p.

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 Record created 2016-12-02, last modified 2016-12-02