Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1189–1202 | Cite as

Glacier variation in response to climate change in Chinese Tianshan Mountains from 1989 to 2012

  • Yi HeEmail author
  • Tai-bao Yang
  • Qin Ji
  • Jie Chen
  • Gang Zhao
  • Wan-wan Shao


Based on the 1990, 2000 and 2011 Landsat TM/ETM+ remote sensing data, glacier information of three periods in the Chinese Tianshan Mountains were extracted by using ratio threshold method (TM3/TM5) and visual interpretation, combined with digital processing of satellite images and analysis in GIS. The climate data in the surrounding area were analyzed by using linear regression, Mann-Kendall abrupt test, and Morlet wavelet analysis. Study results showed that: over the 23 years investigation, the glacier areas have markedly decreased. In the last 12 years (2000 to 2011), the rate of retreat has begun to accelerate. The most dramatic glacier shrinkage occurred in the central region, the lowest in the eastern region. The mean summer temperature and warm precipitation in Chinese Tianshan Mountains had an increasing trend, with rates of 0.22°C /10a and 5.1mm/10a from 1960 to 2011, respectively. Mean summer temperature have experienced a strong increase in 1998. The analysis of the results showed that the rise of mean summer temperature was the main factor that contributed to glacier shrinkage. Regional differences of glacier area changes were investigated by analyzing glacier behavior in five study sub-regions; regional differences are related to local climate, to the relative proportion of glaciers in different size classes, altitudinal and aspect distribution of glaciated areas. In addition, the lag theory indicated that glaciers may accelerate the retreat in the next decade, considering climate trends recognized for the period 2000–2011.


Climate variation Glacier Remote sensing Tianshan 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yi He
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tai-bao Yang
    • 1
  • Qin Ji
    • 1
  • Jie Chen
    • 1
  • Gang Zhao
    • 1
  • Wan-wan Shao
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Earth and Environmental SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina

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