Mass Change of Glaciers in Muztag Ata–Kongur Tagh, Eastern Pamir, China from 1971/76 to 2013/14 as Derived from Remote Sensing Data

Zhang, Zhen; Liu, Shiyin; Wei, Junfeng; Xu, Junli; Guo, Wanqin; Bao, Weijia; Jiang, Zongli
January 2016
PLoS ONE;1/20/2016, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
The assessment of glacier mass budget is crucial for assessing water reserves stored in glaciers. Derived glacier mass changes in the Muztag Ata and Kongur Tagh (MAKT) region in the eastern Pamir, northwestern China, is helpful in improving our knowledge of the dynamics of glaciers under a changing climate in High Mountain Asia. Here, glacier area and mass changes derived from remote sensing data are investigated for the period 1971/76–2013/14 for glaciers in MAKT. We have used ASTER images (2013/14), Cartosat-1 (2014) and Landsat, SRTM (Shuttle Radar Terrain Mission) digital elevation model (DEM) (2000), topographic maps (1971/76) and the first and second Chinese glacier inventories (CGIs). Our results indicated that the glacier area of MAKT decreased from 1018.3 ± 12.99 km2 in 1971/76 to 999.2 ± 31.22 km2 in 2014 (–1.9 ± 0.2%). Weak area shrinkage of glaciers by 2.5 ± 0.5 km2 (0.2 ± 0.1%) happened after 2000 and the period 2009–2014 even saw a slight expansion by 0.5 ± 0.1 km2 (0.1 ± 0.0%). The glaciers in this region have experienced an overall loss of –6.99 ± 0.80 km3 in ice volume or –0.15 ± 0.12 m water equivalent (w.e.) a–1 from 1971/76 to 2013/14. The mass budget of MAKT was –0.19 ± 0.19 m w.e. a−1 for the period ~1971/76–1999 and –0.14 ± 0.24 m w.e. a−1 during 1999–2013/2014. Similar to previous studies, there has been little mass change in the Pamir over recent decades despite such uncertainties. Glacier mass change showed spatial and temporal heterogeneity, with strong mass loss on debris-covered glaciers with an average of –0.32 ± 0.12 m w.e. a−1 from the 1970s to 2013/14.


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