Mass balance is a key indicator of the sensitivity of glaciers to climate change. Field measurement is one of the most important ways to study the mass balance of glaciers. Based on observations of mass balance in the ablation zone of Shuiguan Glacier No.4, Qilian Mountains, China, combined with the balance ratio between accumulation and ablation, we established a linear relation between mass balance and altitude. The results show that the mean annual mass balance of this glacier was ~510 mm w.e. from 2010 to 2013. The uncertainty in the balance ratio value does not lead to a significant difference in the mass balance. The equilibrium-line altitude rose by 180 m from 1972 to 2013, while the accumulation—area ratio decreased from 0.68 to 0.25. These variations may be caused by changes in air temperature. Meanwhile, the glacier is at present not in a steady state, and it may continue to shrink by a further ~900 m, even without further climate warming. In the western Lenglongling Mountains, assuming that the glaciers are in a steady state and the Equilibrium-line altitudes (ELAs) remain similar, there will be only 46 glaciers left, covering a total area of 19.2 km2, in other words, only 22.3% of the glaciers area in 1972.
Journal of Mountain Science – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 4, 2017
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