Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 16, Issue 11, pp 2663–2678 | Cite as

Glacier change in the Tanggula Mountains, Tibetan Plateau, in 1969–2015

  • Hong-yu Duan
  • Xiao-jun YaoEmail author
  • Shi-yin Liu
  • Yong-peng Gao
  • Miao-miao Qi
  • Juan Liu
  • Da-hong Zhang
  • Xiao-feng Li


To improve our knowledge of glacier change in the Tanggula Mountains located in the northeast of the Tibetan Plateau, we delineated outlines of the glaciers in 1991 and 2015 using Landsat TM/OLI images and compared them with the reported glacier data in the First Chinese Glacier Inventory in 1969 and the Second Chinese Glacier Inventory in 2007. These comparisons showed that the glacier area and ice volume decreased by 524.8 km2 and 37 km3, respectively. The majority of the glacier area loss was concentrated in the area class of 1–5 km2, between 5300 m and 5500 m in elevation, on north and east facing slopes and in the Dam Qu River basin. These glacier changes exhibited spatial and temporal differences. The glacier retreat rate gradually increased from 1969 to 2015, and the rate in the east was higher than that in the west. From 1969 to 2015, the warming rate in the Tanggula Mountains was 0.38°C/10a, while the annual precipitation only increased by 0.4%. The slight increase in the amount of precipitation made a limited contribution to glacier change, while the change in temperature led to noticeable shrinkage of the glaciers. Contrary to the retreat or stagnation of most glaciers in the study area, there were 10 glaciers that experienced clear advance in 1986–2015 with noticeable increases in both area and length. Whether or not these 10 glaciers are surge glaciers requires further study.


Glacier change Glacier inventory Advancing glaciers Climate change Tanggula Mountains Tibetan Plateau 


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The authors thank five anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on this manuscript. Our work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.41861013), Youth Scholar Scientific Capability Promoting Project of Northwest Normal University (No.NWNU-LKQN-14-4) and (No.DD20190515) and the Comprehensive Remote Sensing Survey of Glacier Changes and Glacial Lake Outburst Disasters in the Tibetan Plateau Project of China Geological Survey (No.121201203000160012). We would like to acknowledge the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website for Landsat TM/ETM+/OLI images, the Geospatial Data Cloud website for SRTM DEM data and the China Glacier Resources and the Change Survey Project of the Ministry of Science and Technology Basic Work Special Project for the Two Glacier Inventory Data.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Geography and Environment SciencesNorthwest Normal UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Yunnan Key Laboratory of International Rivers and Transboundary Eco-securityKunmingChina
  3. 3.Institute of International Rivers and Eco-Security Yunnan UniversityKunmingChina

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