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Ice thickness distribution and volume estimation of Burqin Glacier No. 18 in the Chinese Altay Mountains

Abstract

Information on the thickness distribution and volume of glacier ice is highly important for glaciological applications; however, detailed measurements of the ice thickness of many glaciers in the Chinese Altay Mountains remain lacking. Burqin Glacier No. 18 is a northeast-orientated cirque glacier located on the southern side of the Altay Mountains. This study used PulseEKKO® PRO 100A enhancement ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to survey the ice thickness and volume of Burqin Glacier No. 18 in summer 2018. Together with GPR surveying, spatial distributed profiles of the GPR measurements were concurrently surveyed using the real-time kinematic (RTK) global navigation satellite system (GNSS, Unistrong E650). Besides, we used QuickBird, WorldView-2, and Landsat TM to delineate accurate boundary of the glacier for undertaking estimation of glacier ice volume. GPR measurements revealed that the basal topography of profile B1–B2 was flat, the basal topography of profile C1–C2 presented a V-type form, and the basal topography of profile D1–D2 had a typical U-type topographic feature because the bedrock near the central elevation of the glacier was relatively flat. The longitudinal profile A1–A2 showed a ladder-like distribution. Glacier ice was thin at the terminus and its thickness increased gradually from the elevation of approximately 2620 m a.s.l. along the main axis of the glacier tongue with an average value of 80 (±1) m. The average ice thickness of the glacier was determined as 27 (±2) m and its total ice volume was estimated at 0.031 (±0.002) km3. Interpretation of remote sensing images indicated that during 1989–2016, the glacier area reduced from 1.30 to 1.17 km2 (reduction of 0.37%/a) and the glacier terminus retreated at the rate of 8.48 m/a. The mean ice thickness of Burqin Glacier No. 18 was less than that of the majority of other observed glaciers in China, especially those in the Qilian Mountains and Central Chinese Tianshan Mountains; this is probably attributable to differences in glacier type and climatic setting.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA20020102, XDA20060201), the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP) Program (2019QZKK0201), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (International cooperation and exchange projects) (41761134093), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41771077). We are very grateful to the Tianshan Glaciological Station for field data collection.

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Correspondence to Zhongqin Li or Zemin Wang.

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Jin, S., Li, Z., Wang, Z. et al. Ice thickness distribution and volume estimation of Burqin Glacier No. 18 in the Chinese Altay Mountains. J. Arid Land 12, 905–916 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-020-0083-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-020-0083-9

Keywords

  • glacier ice thickness
  • glacier ice volume
  • glacier area
  • ground-penetrating radar
  • Bayesian kriging method mountain glacier