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Changes in the elevation and extent of two glaciers along the Yanglonghe river, Qilian Shan, China

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We use topographic maps, historical data, multispectral satellite data and real-time kinematic GPS data to analyze glacier area, length and ice-elevation changes of two glaciers in the central Qilian Shan, China, between 1956 and 2007. We find that the fronts of Yanglonghe glacier No. 1 (5Y432A1) and Yanglonghe glacier No. 5 (5Y432A5) have retreated by 266.5 ± 37.1 m (5.2 ± 0.73 m a−1) and 181.4 ± 37.1 m (3.6 ± 0.73 m a−1) respectively, and that this retreat accelerated after 1999. During the study period, the glacier areas decreased by ∼4.1% and 15.9% respectively. In addition, spatially non-uniform thinning, which averaged 20.2 ± 11 m (0.4 ± 0.22 m a−1) and 16.9 ± 11 m (0.33 ± 0.22 m a−1) in the ablation areas of 5Y432A1 and 5Y432A5 respectively, is observed using digital elevation models constructed using data from 1956, 1977 and 2007. The ice-volume depletion from 5Y432A1 (2.91 × 107 m3) was 2.7 times greater than from the smaller 5Y432A5 (1.08 × 107 m3). Based on records from nearby Tuole weather station, increasing annual temperatures are principally responsible for the observed glacier thinning and retreat.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-06-01

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