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Structure and formation process of cryoconite granules on Ürümqi glacier No. 1, Tien Shan, China

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Cryoconite granules are dark-colored spherical aggregates of organic and inorganic material on glacier ice, and are commonly observed on glaciers the world over. The structure of cryoconite granules on Ürümqi glacier No. 1, Tien Shan, China, was analyzed. Granules were distributed over the entire ice surface of the ablation area, and ranged in size from 0.26 to 3.5 mm (mean 1.1 mm). The granule surface was densely covered with filamentous cyanobacteria. Microscopy of a thin section revealed various inner structures. Most granules had concentric layers of dense organic matter, which are probably derived from annual growth of the granules by the activity of cyanobacteria. The number of layers averaged 3.5 and ranged up to 7, which is likely to indicate their mean and maximum growth ages, respectively. Some granules contained two or more subgranules, showing that small granules had combined and enlarged. Such structures suggest that granule formation was mainly due to the activity of filamentous cyanobacteria, and that the granules repeatedly grew and disintegrated over a cycle of several years on the glacier.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-12-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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