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Surface-area changes of glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau interior area since the 1970s using recent Landsat images and historical maps

  • Wei Junfeng (a1) (a2), Liu Shiyin (a1), Guo Wanqin (a1), Yao Xiaojun (a1) (a2) (a3), Xu Junli (a1) (a2), Bao Weijia (a1) (a2) and Jiang Zongli (a4)...
Abstract

The Tibetan Plateau interior area (TPIA), often termed the Qangtang Plateau, is distinguished by many dome-like mountains higher than 6000 ma.s.l. These mountains provide favourable conditions for the development of ice caps and glaciers of extreme continental/subpolar type. According to historical topographic maps (1959–80) and recent Landsat images (2004–11), continuous retreat was observed and the glacierized part of this area decreased by 9.5% (0.27% a–1) with respect to the total glacier area of 8036.4 km2 in the 1970s. Glaciers in the Zhari Namco basin have experienced the highest area shrinkage, with a reduction rate of 0.72% a–1, while the smallest reduction occurred in Bangong Co (0.12% a–1) and Dogai Coying basins (0.11% a–1). A regional gradient of area loss was found, with a larger decrease in the south and a smaller decrease in the north of the plateau. Comparisons indicate glaciers have experienced smaller shrinkage in the TPIA than in surrounding regions. Glacier shrinkage in the TPIA is mainly attributed to an increase in air temperature, while precipitation, glacier size and positive difference of glaciation also played an important role.

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Annals of Glaciology
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