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Variations in the ground temperatures of permafrost in the two watersheds of the interior and eastern Qilian Mountains

  • Jing LiEmail author
  • Yu Sheng
  • Jichun Wu
  • Ziliang Feng
  • Shengting Wang
  • Yuanbing Cao
  • Xiaoying Hu
  • Wei Cao
  • Jie Wang
  • Xiumin Zhang
Original Article

Abstract

The Qilian Mountains, which are composed of a series of approximately northwest–southeast-oriented mountains, are one of main alpine permafrost areas in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau in northwestern China. From east to west, variations in permafrost environments are remarkable. The source areas of the Shule River (SASR) and the Datong River (SADR) are located in the interior and eastern part of the Qilian Mountains. In this study, variations in the ground temperatures of permafrost in the two watersheds represented the characteristics of interior and eastern permafrost environments in the Qilian Mountains. A total of 20 and 30 boreholes, along with ground temperatures measured at 10–15 m depths, were collected in the two areas. The maximum ground temperature in the SASR was 0.7 °C, and the minimum was −3.4 °C. The variations in the ground temperatures can be explained by elevation and local slope facing. The lapse rates of the ground temperatures with elevation were 5.9 °C/km for the south-facing slope, 8.0 °C/km for the gentle flat terrain and approximately 5.7 °C/km for the north-facing slope. It was estimated that the 0 °C ground temperature was located at approximately 3800 m in the flat terrains, at approximately 3880 m on the south-facing slope terrains, and at approximately 3710 m on the north-facing slope terrains. In the SADR, the maximum and minimum ground temperatures were 2.54 and −2.78 °C, respectively. The elevation, vegetation types and soil moisture content can explain most of the variations in the ground temperatures. The lower limits of the permafrost were 3620 m for the wet meadow and 3710 m for the moist meadow. The lapse rates of the ground temperatures with elevation were 3.4 °C/km for wet meadow and 3.0 °C/km for moist meadow. The differences in the ground temperatures of the two areas were primarily caused by regional climatic differences, particularly the varying precipitation and evaporation. However, more areas must be studied to elucidate the regional differentiation of permafrost distribution and the underlying reasons for this differentiation.

Keywords

Regional differentiation of permafrost distribution Ground temperatures The interior and eastern Qilian Mountains 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported financially by the Major State Basic Research Development Program of China (No. 2013CBA01803), National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41101067), Research Program of State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering of Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. SKLFSE-ZT-10). The dataset of the first glacier inventory in China and the landuse dataset are provided by Cold and Arid Regions Sciences Data Center at Lanzhou (http://westdc.westgis.ac.cn).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yu Sheng
    • 1
  • Jichun Wu
    • 1
  • Ziliang Feng
    • 1
  • Shengting Wang
    • 1
  • Yuanbing Cao
    • 1
  • Xiaoying Hu
    • 1
  • Wei Cao
    • 1
  • Jie Wang
    • 2
  • Xiumin Zhang
    • 3
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Yunnan Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower ResearchKunmingChina
  3. 3.Shanxi Regional Electric Power Design Company LimitedXi’anChina

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