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China’s Temperate Glaciers Are Melting at Accelerating Rate



Temperate glaciers are very sensitive to variations in temperature and precipitation, and thus represent a good indicator of climate change. China’s temperate glaciers have a relatively warm and humid climate and hydrothermal conditions at low latitudes, which are more significantly affected by climate change. 

However, China’s temperate glaciers are showing signs of accelerated melting because of their strong accumulation and melting, high temperature, fast movement, and violent bottom sliding. Therefore, it is necessary to reveal the spatiotemporal dynamic characteristics of typical temperate glaciers in China and put forward some new ideas and understandings of accelerated temperate glacier changes. 

Recently, a research team led by Prof. WANG Shijin from Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources (NIEER) of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) systematically analyzed the temporal and spatial dynamic characteristics of typical temperate glaciers. 

On the basis of topographic maps, aerial photography, and Landsat OLI images, and combined with existing research results, they observed the fronts of these glaciers and monitored changes in glacier fronts during the study period. 

The results indicated that China’s temperate glaciers showed strong retreat and ablation trends in terms of area, length, ice flow speed, and mass balance from the 1950s to the 1970s. Therefore, the mass loss of China’s temperate glaciers was much higher than that of continental and polar continental glaciers. 

This comprehensive study of the interaction of temperate glaciers with climate and environment can deepen our understanding of the dynamic characteristics of these temperate glaciers and their impact on sustainable economic and social development. 

In the future, scientists will continue to strengthen ground monitoring using unmanned aerial vehicle (UVA) technology and high-resolution radar data to automate and digitize glacier monitoring. 

This study has been published on Scientific Reports recently titled with spatiotemporal dynamic characteristics of typical temperate glaciers in China. 



WANG Shijin 


Yulong Snow Mountain Glacier and Environment Observation and Research Station/State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China. 


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