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Glacier Flow Velocity is Used for Monitoring Glacier Shrinkage

Dec 06, 2017     Email"> PrintText Size

In recent years, glacier recession around the world is intensifying due to global warming and climate change. Moreover, glacier shrinkage has more and more obvious impact on China's climate, including water resources dearth, frequent floods, wetland degradation and fluvial systems fragility. Therefore, it is necessary to build a glacier flow velocity monitoring system to investigate China's glacier changes and understand the dynamics of glaciers. 

Urumqi Glacier No. 1 is the only Chinese reference glacier in the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) and regarded as a representative for glaciers in the inland areas of Central Asia. Therefore, Urumqi Glacier No. 1 has a certain representation for studying China’s glacier change. 

Recently, scientists from the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, together with their colleague from Northwest Normal University, explored multi-decadal variations in the flow velocity of the Urumqi Glacier No. 1 and the influencing factors based on continuous field observations and path coefficient analysis. 

Scientists analyzed the spatial distributions and long-term changes of glacier flow velocity in Urumqi Glacier No. 1, as well as the influencing factors. Results show that the glacier flow velocity decreased from 5.5 m/a in 1980/1981 to 3.3 m/a in 2010/2011. 

The annual variation in the direction of glacier flow velocity in the western branch and eastern branch was less than 1°-3°, and the change of glacier flow velocity in the western branch was more dramatic than that in the eastern branch. 

The research result indicates that glacier flow velocity was primarily influenced by glacier morphology, including glacier area, glacier length, and ice thickness, and glacier mass balance and local climate conditions (air temperature and precipitation) are also significant in influencing glacier flow velocity. 

The long-term flow velocity data set of Urumqi Glacier No. 1 contributes to a better understanding of glacier dynamics within the context of climatic warming. Besides, for Urumqi Glacier No. 1, continuous field observations are needed in future to further understanding of the glacier dynamics in the context of climatic warming. 

This research has been published in the Journal of Arid Land in an article entitled "Multi-decadal variations in glacier flow velocity and the influencing factors of Urumqi Glacier No. 1 in Tianshan Mountains, Northwest China".  


Urumqi Glacier No. 1 (Image by NIEER) 


(Editor: ZHANG Nannan)

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