Glacial Fluctuation in the Source Region of the Yangtze River

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DOI: 10.1088/1755-1315/17/1/012135
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Abstract
Glaciers in the source region of the Yangtze River are not only water resources but also important energy and environmental resources. Glacial fluctuation is an important component of the study of changes in the natural environment, including climate change. We investigated the glaciers in the source region of the Yangtze River, and analyzed the fluctuations using multi-temporal remote sensing data. The trend in glacial fluctuation and the factors that influence it were determined. The results have implications for water resource management and environmental conservation in the Yangtze River region.
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Glacial Fluctuation in the Source Region of the Yangtze River
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2014 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 17 012135
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Glacial Fluctuation in the Source Region of the Yangtze River
GAO Shengyi1, FAN Qingsong1, CAO Xi1, MA Li1
1Changjiang Spatial Information Technology Engineering Co., Ltd, Wuhan, China
E-mail: gsycjw@163.com
Abstract: Glaciers in the source region of the Yangtze River are not only water resources but
also important energy and environmental resources. Glacial fluctuation is an important
component of the study of changes in the natural environment, including climate change. We
investigated the glaciers in the source region of the Yangtze River, and analyzed the
fluctuations using multi-temporal remote sensing data. The trend in glacial fluctuation and the
factors that influence it were determined. The results have implications for water resource
management and environmental conservation in the Yangtze River region.
1. Introduction
The source region of the Yangtze River lies between the Kunlun and Tanggula Mountains in the
hinterland of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau. The Qumar River, Tuotuo River, and Dam Qu River are the
three largest rivers in this region, and are called, respectively, the north source, main source, and south
source. The north source originates in the Hoh Xil Mountain, the south source originates in the eastern
side of the Tanggula Mountains, and the main source originates in the Geladandong snowberg of the
Tanggula Mountains. The Jianggendiru Glacier on the southwest side of Geladandong Peak is the
source of the Tuotuo River. [1]
Seventy per cent of the glaciers in the Yangtze River basin are found in the region above the
Tongtian river; the total ice volume of the glaciers in this region is 100.414 km3, which is equivalent to
a water volume of 88.752×I09 m3 [2]. Glacier meltwater is both an important water source for rivers
and an important resource for nomadic herders. It is also the main source of domestic water in the
source region of the Yangtze River and the freshwater resource relied on by the wild animals of the
plateau.
To study glacial fluctuation in the source region of the Yangtze River, we focused on glaciers in the
Geladandong snowberg area. We used the trend in local glacial fluctuation to analyze the trends in the
source region. Using both manual interpretation and computer-aided interpretation of the remote
sensing imagery (i.e., a Geographic Information System), we determined the spatial distribution of the
glaciers in the source region of the Yangtze River. We compared this data with the multi-temporal
35th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE35) IOP Publishing
IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 17 (2014) 012135 doi:10.1088/1755-1315/17/1/012135
Content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence. Any further distribution
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remote sensing imagery collected in the late 70s, in the 90s, and in the 21st century, and to the
meteorological data collected over the same period. The factors that influenced the trends in glacial
fluctuation were then deduced.
2. Glacial fluctuation
2.1. Change in the area of glaciers in the source region
We focused on the glaciers of the Geladandong snowberg area in the main source region of the
Yangtze River. The spatial distribution of the glaciers was determined using remote sensing data from
six periods between 1977 and 2009. The changes in the areas covered by the Mengdakangri Glacier,
the Geladandong Glacier and the Sedopu Kangri, the main water sources of the Tuotuo River, were
calculated. The distribution of the glaciers in the Geladandong snowberg area can be seen in Figure 1.
The total area of the glaciers in each of the six years and the changes from the 1977 baseline are given in
Table 1.
Table 1. Change in the total area of the glaciers over time
Year of
Imagery
Month of
Imagery
Total Area of
Glaciers (km2)
Variation
(km2)
Mean Annual
Change Rate (%)
Area Change
Rate (%)
1977 March 1067.21
1992
August
999.72
-67.49
-4.50
-6.32
1999
July
965.83
-33.89
-4.84
-3.39
2004 September 949.75 -16.08 -3.22 -1.67
2007
May
944.30
-5.45
-1.82
-0.57
2009 November 940.88 -3.42 -1.71 -0.36
Total
Change
-126.33 -11.84
Figure 1. Glacier distribution in the Geladandong snowberg area
35th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE35) IOP Publishing
IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 17 (2014) 012135 doi:10.1088/1755-1315/17/1/012135
2
Figure 2. Glacial fluctuation in the Geladandong snowberg area
Table 1 shows that the trend in the total glacier area near the Geladandong Glacier was downwards.
The highest rate of change occurred between 1977 and 1999 when the mean annual change was 4.6
km2. The rate of change slowed after 2004 when the mean annual change was less than 2 km2.
Although the area covered by the glaciers fluctuated, the general trend was downwards. The black
blocks in Figure 2 highlight the degraded areas in the Geladandong snowberg area.
In the 32 years from 1977 to 2009, the total area of the glaciers decreased 126.33 km2, which was a
total decrease of 11.84%. The downward trend can be seen in Figure 3.
Area
Figure 3. Total glacier area trend in the Geladandong snowberg area
2.1.1. Change in the area of the Geladandong Glacier
The Geladandong Glacier is comprised of the Jianggendiru Glacier, the Qiemeisu Glacier, and the
Gangjiaquba Glacier; the glacier on the south slope of Geladandong is also part of the Geladandong
Glacier. Figure 4 shows the fluctuation in the Geladandong Glacier according to the remote sensing
imagery. According to the statistical analysis, the area of the Geladandong Glacier decreased 66 km2 in
32 years, which was a 9.7% decrease in area. The total area of the Geladandong Glacier in each of the
six years and the changes from the 1977 baseline are shown in Table 2.
35th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE35) IOP Publishing
IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 17 (2014) 012135 doi:10.1088/1755-1315/17/1/012135
3
Table 2. Change in the area of the Geladandong Glacier
Year of
Imagery
Month of
Imagery
Total Area of
Glaciers (km2)
Variation
(km2)
Mean Annual
Change Rate (%)
Area Change
Rate (%)
1977 March 678.27
1992
August
644.22
-34.05
-2.27
-5.02
1999
July
630.95
-13.27
-1.90
-2.06
2004 September 617.03 -13.91 -2.78 -2.21
2007
May
614.82
-2.22
-0.74
-0.36
2009 November 612.23 -2.58 -1.29 -0.42
Total Change
-66.04
-9.74
Clearly, the speed of change was relatively large before 2004, but became relatively stable after
2004. Figure 4 illustrates the trend in the changes in the area of the Geladandong Glacier.
Figure 4. The trend in the total area of the Geladandong Glacier
2. 1.2. Glacial fluctuation analysis
By overlapping images of the glaciers taken in 1977 and 2009, the upgraded and degraded areas of the
glaciers in the Geladandong snowberg area were determined. The comparison showed that the most
degraded glacier was the Gangjiaquba Glacier (5K444B0064) in the south of Geladandong. In the
fluctuations between 1977 and 2009 the maximum degrading distance was 4470 meters, and the
minimum distance was 2000 meters. The average degrading distance was 3200 meters. The changes
occurred most rapidly between 1992 and 2004, with an average annual shrinkage of 160 meters. From
1977 to 2009 the average annual degrading distance was 100 meters. Table 3 shows the changes in the
area of the Gangjiaquba Glacier over the 32 years. Figure 6 shows the overall degradation of the
Gangjiaquba Glacier.
The south branch (5K451F0033) of the Jianggendiru Glacier (5K451F0033) had an area 690
meters smaller in 2009 than in 1977, and the north branch (5K451F0030) was 490 meters smaller.
Table 4 shows the degradation of the Jianggendiru Glacier over the years. Figure 7 shows the
degradation of the south branch of the Jianggendiru Glacier.
The glacier No. 5K451F0012, in the northwest area of the Qiemeisu Glacier, upgraded 680 meters
over the 32-year period. Figure 8 shows the increase in the area of the glacier.
35th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE35) IOP Publishing
IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 17 (2014) 012135 doi:10.1088/1755-1315/17/1/012135
4
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