JOURNAL OF NATURAL RESOURCES ›› 2019, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (4): 802-814.doi: 10.31497/zrzyxb.20190410

• Resource Ecology • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Glacier changes in the Sawuer Mountain during 1977-2017 and their response to climate change

WANG Yan-qiang1(), ZHAO Jun1(), LI Zhong-qin1,2, ZHANG Ming-jun1   

  1. 1. College of Geography and Environment Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences/Tianshan Glaciological Station, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2018-07-09 Revised:2018-12-03 Online:2019-04-20 Published:2019-04-20


The Sawuer Mountain spans the two countries between China and Kazakhstan and is the transitional section between the Tianshan Mountains and the central Altay Mountains. This mountain range is not only the most obvious watershed for the inland and Arctic sea systems in Xinjiang, but also the highest mountain in the northernmost part of the western Junggar Basin. Muz Taw Mountain is the main peak of the Sawuer Mountain and Muz Taw Glacier in the peak is the most important tourist resource in Jimunai county. The northern slope of the study area runs through a glacier snow-fed river, the Ulejkururasu River, which is also a boundary river between China and Kazakhstan. Glaciers, as the alpine solid reservoir, whose river runoff by ablation plays a very important role in the survival and development of agriculture and livestock husbandry in the middle and lower reaches of arid regions. Meanwhile, glaciers also affect the sustainable development of ecological environment and social economy in a large extent. Therefore, it is possible to predict future changes in the glacier and the future development of the area affected by the glacier via understanding the changing trends of glaciers and their response to climate change. Based on the Landsat 1977 MSS, 1989 TM, 1998 TM, 2006 TM and 2017 OLI / TIRS remote sensing image data, the glacier information of five periods in the Uighur region was extracted by visual interpretation and GIS technology. The trend and periodicity of temperature and precipitation were analyzed to investigate the response of the glaciers to climate change in recent 40 years in the region. The results show that: (1) From 1977 to 2017, the total glacier area in the study region decreased by 10.51 km2, retreating by 45.72%, and the retreat rate was 1.14%·a-1, with the glacier retreating at an accelerating stage. (2) The smaller the glacier scale, the faster the retreat speed; (3) The south slope retreats fastest, followed by the southeast slope and the southwest slope, and the slowest retreat is in the northeast slope, and the gradient of the glacier shrinkage at 5°-40° generally shows a trend of increasing with the increase of the slope; (4) The study region is in the period of temperature rise and precipitation increase, and the increase of precipitation cannot make up for the glacier ablation caused by the temperature increase, leading to the accelerating retreating rate of glacier. (5) Compared with the glaciers dominated by other factors, the glacier retreats. More glaciers with higher retreat rates and smaller areas is another factor in forming this result.

Key words: Sawuer Mountain, glacier change, climate change, remote sensing