Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 765–778 | Cite as

Variations in the northern permafrost boundary over the last four decades in the Xidatan region, Qinghai–Tibet Plateau

  • Jing Luo
  • Fu-jun Niu
  • Zhan-ju Lin
  • Ming-hao Liu
  • Guo-an Yin


The distribution and variations of permafrost in the Xidatan region, the northern permafrost boundary of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, were examined and analyzed using ground penetrating radar (GPR), borehole drilling, and thermal monitoring data. Results from GPR profiles together with borehole verification indicate that the lowest elevation limit of permafrost occurrence is 4369 m above sea level in 2012. Compared to previous studies, the maximal rise of permafrost limit is 28 m from 1975 to 2012. The total area of permafrost in the study region has been decreased by 13.8%. One of the two previously existed permafrost islands has disappeared and second one has reduced by 76% in area during the past ~40 years. In addition, the ground temperature in the Xidatan region has increased from 2012 to 2016, with a mean warming rate of ~0.004°C a−1 and ~0.003°C a−1 at the depths of 6 and 15 m, respectively. The rising of permafrost limit in the Xidatan region is mainly due to global warming. However, some non-climatic factors such as hydrologic processes and anthropic disturbances have also induced permafrost degradation. If the air temperature continues to increase, the northern permafrost boundary in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau may continue rising in the future.


Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Permafrost Climate warming Permafrost limit Ground penetrating radar Thermal monitoring 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 41601069), the State Key Program of National Natural Science of China (Grant No. 41730640) and the Independent Project of the State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soils Engineering (SKLFSEZT-32 and SKLFSE-ZQ-37).


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and ResourcesChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.South China Institute of Geotechnical Engineering, School of Civil Engineering and TransportationSouth China University of TechnologyGuangzhouChina

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