Multi-decadal variations in glacier flow velocity and the influencing factors of Urumqi Glacier No. 1 in Tianshan Mountains, Northwest China

Abstract

Urumqi Glacier No. 1 is a representative glacier in the inland areas of Central Asia and is the only Chinese reference glacier in the World Glacier Monitoring Service. In this study, we explored multi-decadal variations in the flow velocity of the glacier and the influencing factors based on continuous field observations and path coefficient analysis. 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. Glacier flow velocity was influenced by glacier morphology (including glacier area, glacier length, and ice thickness), glacier mass balance and local climate conditions (air temperature and precipitation), the glacier morphology being the leading factor. 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.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41641003, 41771077), the Funds for Creative Research Groups of China (41121001) and the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of Chinese Academy of Sciences. We are grateful to the staff and workers in the Tianshan Glaciological Station for continuous data observation and collection.

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Correspondence to Puyu Wang.

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Wang, P., Li, Z., Xu, C. et al. Multi-decadal variations in glacier flow velocity and the influencing factors of Urumqi Glacier No. 1 in Tianshan Mountains, Northwest China. J. Arid Land 9, 900–910 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-017-0067-6

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Keywords

  • glacier flow velocity
  • glacier change
  • path coefficient analysis
  • Urumqi Glacier No. 1
  • Chinese Tianshan Mountains