Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2017, Vol. 9 ›› Issue (6): 543-553.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2017.00543

Previous Articles     Next Articles

The mass-balance characteristics and sensitivities to climate variables of Laohugou Glacier No. 12, western Qilian Mountains, China

JiZu Chen1,2, ShiChang Kang1,3, Xiang Qin1, WenTao Du1,2, WeiJun Sun4, YuShuo Liu1   

  1. 1. Qilian Shan Station of Glaciology and Ecological Environment, State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China;
    2. University of CAS, Beijing 100049, China;
    3. CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing 100085, China;
    4. College of Population, Resources and Environment, Shandong Normal University, Jinan, Shandong 250014, China
  • Received:2017-07-12 Online:2017-12-01 Published:2018-11-23
  • Contact: Xiang Qin, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences. No. 320, West Donggang Road, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China. Tel: +86-931-4967370;
  • Supported by:
    The work was supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KJZD-EW-G03-04) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41721091, 41671071), and Open Foundation of State Key Laboratory of Hydrology-Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering (No. 2017490711). Many thanks are also extended to colleagues working at the Qilian Station of Glaciology and Ecological Environment.

Abstract: Due to global warming, glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) are experiencing widespread shrinkage; however, the mechanisms controlling glacier variations across the TP are still rather unclear, especially on the northeastern TP. In this study, a physically based, distributed surface-energy and mass-balance model was used to simulate glacier mass balance forced by meteorological data. The model was applied to Laohugou No. 12 Glacier, western Qilian Mountains, China, during 2010~2012. The simulated albedo and mass balance were validated and calibrated by in situ measurements. The simulated annual glacier-wide mass balances were -385 mm water equivalent (w.e.) in 2010/2011 and -232 mm w.e. in 2011/2012, respectively. The mean equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) was 5,015 m a.s.l., during 2010~2012, which ascended by 215 m compared to that in the 1970s. The mean accumulation area ratio (AAR) was 39% during the two years. Climatic-sensitivity experiments indicated that the change of glacier mass balance resulting from a 1.5 ℃ increase in air temperature could be offset by a 30% increase in annual precipitation. The glacier mass balance varied linearly with precipitation, at a rate of 130 mm w.e. per 10% change in total precipitation.

Key words: glacier, mass balance, energy- and mass-balance model, climate sensitivities

Anderson B, Mackintosh A, Stumm D, et al., 2010. Climate sensitivity of a high-precipitation glacier in New Zealand. Journal of Glaciology, 56(195): 114-128, DOI:10.3189/002214310791190929.
Azam MF, Wagnon P, Vincent C, et al., 2014. Processes governing the mass balance of Chhota Shigri Glacier (western Himalaya, India) assessed by point-scale surface energy balance measurements. The Cryosphere, 8(6): 2195-2217, DOI:10.5194/tc-8-2195-2014.
Bolch T, Kulkarni A, Kääb A, et al., 2012. The state and fate of Himalayan glaciers. Science, 336(6079): 310-314, DOI:10.1126/science.1215828.
Ding BH, Yang K, Qin J, et al., 2014. The dependence of precipitation types on surface elevation and meteorological conditions and its parameterization. Journal of Hydrology, 513: 154-163, DOI:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.03.038.
Du WT, Qin X, Liu YS, et al., 2008. Variation of the Laohugou Glacier No. 12 in the Qilian Mountains. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology, 30(3): 373-379.
Forrer J, Rotach MW, 1997. On the turbulence structure in the stable boundary layer over the greenland ice sheet. Boundary-Layer Meteorology, 85(1): 111-136, DOI:10.1023/A:1000466827210.
Fujita K, Ageta Y, 2000. Effect of summer accumulation on glacier mass balance on the Tibetan Plateau revealed by mass-balance model. Journal of Glaciology, 46(153): 244-252, DOI:10.3189/172756500781832945.
Gardelle J, Berthier E, Arnaud Y, 2012. Slight mass gain of Karakoram glaciers in the early twenty-first century. Nature Geoscience, 5(5): 322-325, DOI:10.1038/ngeo1450.
Gardelle J, Berthier E, Arnaud Y, et al., 2013. Region-wide glacier mass balances over the Pamir-Karakoram-Himalaya during 1999-2011. The Cryosphere, 7(4): 1263-1286, DOI:10.5194/tc-7-1263-2013.
Garnier BJ, Ohmura A, 1968. A method of calculating the direct shortwave radiation income of slopes. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 7(5): 796-800, DOI:10.1175/1520-0450(1968)007<0796:AMOCTD>2.0.CO;2.
Gurgiser W, Mölg T, Nicholson L, et al., 2013. Mass-balance model parameter transferability on a tropical glacier. Journal of Glaciology, 59(217): 845-858, DOI:10.3189/2013JoG12J226.
Hock R, Holmgren B, 2005. A distributed surface energy-balance model for complex topography and its application to storglaciären, Sweden. Journal of Glaciology, 51(172): 25-36, DOI:10.3189/172756505781829566.
Huintjes E, 2014. Energy and mass balance modelling for glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau: extension, validation and application of a coupled snow and energy balance model. Rwth Aachen: Aachen University.
Immerzeel WW, van Beek LPH, Bierkens MFP, 2010. Climate change will affect the Asian water towers. Science, 328(5984): 1382-1385, DOI:10.1126/science.1183188.
Jiang X, Wang NL, He JQ, et al., 2010. A distributed surface energy and mass balance model and its application to a mountain glacier in China. Chinese Science Bulletin, 55(20): 2079-2087, DOI:10.1007/s11434-010-3068-9.
[1] Kääb A, Berthier E, Nuth C, et al., 2012. Contrasting patterns of early twenty-first-century glacier mass change in the Himalayas. Nature, 488(7412): 495-498, DOI:10.1038/nature11324.
Kang SC, Chen F, Gao T, et al., 2009. Early onset of rainy season suppresses glacier melt: a case study on Zhadang glacier, Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Glaciology, 55(192): 755-758.
Kang SC, Xu YW, You QL, et al., 2010. Review of climate and cryospheric change in the Tibetan Plateau. Environmental Research Letters, 5(1): 015101, DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/5/1/015101.
Kang XC, Ding LF, 1981. Tianshan and Qilian Mountain glacier mass balance, snow line position and the relationship between weather and climat. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology, 3(1): 53-56.
Li CL, Bosch C, Kang SC, et al., 2016. Sources of black carbon to the Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau glaciers. Nature Communications, 7: 12574, DOI:10.1038/ncomms12574.
Li J, Liu SY, Zhang Y, et al., 2011. Surface energy balance of Keqicar Glacier, Tianshan Mountains, China, during ablation period. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 3(3): 197-205, DOI:10.3724/SP.J.1226.2011.00197.
Long ZX, Li CY, 1999. Numerical simulation of the ENSO influences on East- Asian monsoon activities afterwards. Acta Meteorologica Sinica, 57(6): 651-661, DOI:10.11676/qxxb1999.063.
Maussion F, Scherer D, Mölg T, et al., 2014. Precipitation seasonality and variability over the Tibetan Plateau as resolved by the high Asia reanalysis. Journal of Climate, 27(5): 1910-1927, DOI:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00282.1.
Mölg T, Maussion F, Yang W, et al., 2012. The footprint of Asian monsoon dynamics in the mass and energy balance of a Tibetan glacier. The Cryosphere Discussions, 6(4): 3243-3286, DOI:10.5194/tc-6-1445-2012.
Mölg T, Maussion F, Scherer D, 2013. Mid-latitude westerlies as a driver of glacier variability in monsoonal High Asia. Nature Climate Change, 4(1): 68-73, DOI:10.1038/nclimate2055.
Niu HW, Kang SC, Shi XF, et al., 2017. In-situ measurements of light-absorbing impurities in snow of glacier on Mt. Yulong and implications for radiative forcing estimates. Science of The Total Environment, 581-582: 848-856, DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.01.032.
Oerlemans J, 1991. The mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet: sensitivity to climate change as revealed by energy-balance modelling. The Holocene, 1(1): 40-48, DOI:10.1177/095968369100100106.
Pu JC, Yao TD, Yang MX, et al., 2008. Rapid decrease of mass balance observed in the Xiao (Lesser) Dongkemadi Glacier, in the central Tibetan Plateau. Hydrological Processes, 22(16): 2953-2958, DOI:10.1002/hyp.6865.
Qu B, Ming J, Kang SC, et al., 2014. The decreasing albedo of the Zhadang glacier on western Nyainqentanglha and the role of light-absorbing impurities. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14(20): 11117-11128, DOI:10.5194/acp-14-11117-2014.
Scherler D, Bookhagen B, Strecker MR, 2011. Spatially variable response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change affected by debris cover. Nature Geoscience, 4(3): 156-159, DOI:10.1038/ngeo1068.
Sun WJ, Qin X, Ren JR, et al., 2012. The surface energy budget in the accumulation zone of the Laohugou Glacier No. 12 in the western Qilian Mountains, China, in summer 2009. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 44(3): 296-305, DOI:10.1657/1938-4246-44.3.296.
Sun WJ, Qin X, Du WT, et al., 2014. Ablation modeling and surface energy budget in the ablation zone of Laohugou glacier No. 12, western Qilian Mountains, China. Annals of Glaciology, 55(66): 111-120, DOI:10.3189/2014AoG66A902.
Wagnon P, Vincent C, Arnaud Y, et al., 2013. Seasonal and annual mass balances of Mera and Pokalde glaciers (Nepal Himalaya) since 2007. The Cryosphere, 7(6): 1769-1786, DOI:10.5194/tc-7-1769-2013.
Wang NL, He JQ, Pu JC, et al., 2010. Variations in equilibrium line altitude of the Qiyi Glacier, Qilian Mountains, over the past 50 years. Chinese Science Bulletin, 55(33): 3810-3817, DOI:10.1007/s11434-010-4167-3.
Wang PY, Li ZQ, Li HL, et al., 2016. Analyses of recent observations of Urumqi Glacier No. 1, Chinese Tianshan Mountains. Environmental Earth Sciences, 75(8): 720, DOI:10.1007/s12665-016-5551-3.
Yang DQ, Ishida S, Goodison BE, et al., 1999. Bias correction of daily precipitation measurements for Greenland. Journal of Geophysical Research, 104(D6): 6171-6181, DOI:10.1029/1998JD200110.
Yang K, Koike T, Fujita K, et al., 2002. Improvement of surface flux parametrizations with a turbulence-related length. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 128(584): 2073-2087, DOI:10.1256/003590002320603548.
Yang W, Guo XF, Yao TD, et al., 2011. Summertime surface energy budget and ablation modeling in the ablation zone of a maritime Tibetan glacier. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116(D14): D14116, DOI:10.1029/2010JD015183.
Yang W, Guo XF, Yao TD, et al., 2015. Recent accelerating mass loss of southeast Tibetan glaciers and the relationship with changes in macroscale atmospheric circulations. Climate Dynamics, 47(3-4): 805-815, DOI:10.1007/s00382-015-2872-y.
Yao TD, Ren JR, Xu BQ, 2008. Map of Glaciers and Lakes on the Tibetan Plateau and the Surroundings. Xi'an: Xi'an Cartographic Publishing House.
Yao TD, Thompson L, Yang W, et al., 2012. Different glacier status with atmospheric circulations in Tibetan Plateau and surroundings. Nature Climate Change, 2(9): 663-667, DOI:10.1038/nclimate1580.
Zemp M, Hoelzle M, Haeberli W, 2009. Six decades of glacier mass-balance observations: a review of the worldwide monitoring network. Annals of Glaciology, 50(50): 101-111, DOI:10.3189/172756409787769591.
Zhang GS, Kang SC, Fujita K, et al., 2013a. Energy and mass balance of Zhadang glacier surface, central Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Glaciology, 59(213): 137-148, DOI:10.3189/2013JoG12J152.
Zhang GS, Kang SC, Cuo L, et al., 2016. Modeling hydrological process in a glacier basin on the central Tibetan Plateau with a distributed hydrology soil vegetation model. Journal of Geophysical Research, 121(16): 9521-9539, DOI:10.1002/2016JD025434.
Zhang J, He XB, Ye BS, et al., 2013b. Recent variation of mass balance of the Xiao Dongkemadi Glacier in the Tanggula range and its influencing factors. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology, 35(2): 263-271, DOI:10.7522/j.issn.1000-0240.2013.0032.
Zhu ML, Yao TD, Yang W, et al., 2017. Differences in mass balance behavior for three glaciers from different climatic regions on the Tibetan Plateau. Climate Dynamics. DOI: 10.1007/s00382-017-3817-4. (in Press)
[1] Min Xu,HaiDong Han,ShiChang Kang,Hua Tao. Characteristics of climate and melt runoff in the Koxkar Glacier River Basin, south slope of the Tianshan Mountains, Northwest China [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2019, 11(6): 435-447.
[2] LiLi Yan,Jian Wang. Glacier mapping based on Chinese high-resolution remote sensing GF-1 satellite and topographic data [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2019, 11(3): 218-225.
[3] PuYu Wang,ZhongQin Li,ChunHai Xu,Ping Zhou,WenBin Wang,Shuang Jin,HongLiang Li. Primary investigation of statistical correlation between changes in ice volume and area of glaciers [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2019, 11(1): 41-49.
[4] JianPing Yang, Man Li, ChunPing Tan, HongJu Chen, Qin Ji. Vulnerability and adaptation of an oasis social–ecological system affected by glacier change in an arid region of northwestern China [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2019, 11(1): 29-40.
[5] Mohan Bahadur Chand,Rijan Bhakta Kayastha. Study of thermal properties of supraglacial debris and degree-day factors on Lirung Glacier, Nepal [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 357-368.
[6] WeiZhen Sun, XiaoQing Cui, GuangMing Yu. Source and environmental significance of oxalate in Laohugou Glacier No. 12, Qilian Mountains, Western China [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(2): 126-133.
[7] FeiTeng Wang, ChunHai Xu, ZhongQin Li, Muhammad Naveed Anjum, Lin Wang. Applicability of an ultra-long-range terrestrial laser scanner to monitor the mass balance of Muz Taw Glacier, Sawir Mountains, China [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(1): 47-54.
[8] Min Xu, HaiDong Han, ShiChang Kang. The temporal and spatial variation of positive degree-day factors on the Koxkar Glacier over the south slope of the Tianshan Mountains, China, from 2005 to 2010 [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2017, 9(5): 425-431.
[9] YuShuo Liu, Xiang Qin, WenTao Du. Changes of glacier area in the Xiying River Basin, East Qilian Mountain, China [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2017, 9(5): 432-437.
[10] YuLan Zhang, ShiChang Kang, Min Xu, Michael Sprenger, TanGuang Gao, ZhiYuan Cong, ChaoLiu Li, JunMing Guo, ZhiQiang Xu, Yang Li, Gang Li, XiaoFei Li, YaJun Liu, HaiDong Han. Light-absorbing impurities on Keqikaer Glacier in western Tien Shan: concentrations and potential impact on albedo reduction [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2017, 9(2): 97-111.
[11] Sanjaya Gurung, Bikas C. Bhattarai, Rijan B. Kayastha, Dorothea Stumm, Sharad P. Joshi, Pradeep K. Mool. Study of annual mass balance (2011-2013) of Rikha Samba Glacier, Hidden Valley, Mustang,Nepal [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2016, 8(4): 311-318.
[12] GuoFeng Zhu, YuanQing He, DaHe Qin, HongKai Gao, Tao Pu, DongDong Chen, Kai Wang. The impacts of climate change on hydrology in a typical glacier region-A case study in Hailuo Creek watershed of Mt.Gongga in China [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2016, 8(3): 227-240.
[13] XiaoYu Zhang, ZhongQin Li, Ping Zhou, ShengJie Wang. Characteristics and source of aerosols at Shiyi Glacier,Qilian Mountains, China [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2016, 8(2): 135-146.
[14] ZheFan Jing, Kun Wang, Li Liu. Movement and variation of four typical glaciers in the Qilian Mountains, northwestern China [J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2015, 7(3): 206-211.
Full text



[1] Mohan Bahadur Chand,Rijan Bhakta Kayastha. Study of thermal properties of supraglacial debris and degree-day factors on Lirung Glacier, Nepal[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 357 -368 .
[2] AiHong Xie,ShiMeng Wang,YiCheng Wang,ChuanJin Li. Comparison of temperature extremes between Zhongshan Station and Great Wall Station in Antarctica[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 369 -378 .
[3] YanZai Wang,YongQiu Wu,MeiHui Pan,RuiJie Lu. Comparison of two classification methods to identify grain size fractions of aeolian sediment[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 413 -420 .
[4] YinHuan Ao,ShiHua Lyu,ZhaoGuo Li,LiJuan Wen,Lin Zhao. Numerical simulation of the climate effect of high-altitude lakes on the Tibetan Plateau[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 379 -391 .
[5] Zhuo Ga,Za Dui,Duodian Luozhu,Jun Du. Comparison of precipitation products to observations in Tibet during the rainy season[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 392 -403 .
[6] Rong Yang,JunQia Kong,ZeYu Du,YongZhong Su. Altitude pattern of carbon stocks in desert grasslands of an arid land region[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 404 -412 .
[7] Yang Qiu,ZhongKui Xie,XinPing Wang,YaJun Wang,YuBao Zhang,YuHui He,WenMei Li,WenCong Lv. Effect of slow-release iron fertilizer on iron-deficiency chlorosis, yield and quality of Lilium davidii var. unicolor in a two-year field experiment[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 421 -427 .
[8] Ololade A. Oyedapo,Joseph M. Agbedahunsi,H. C Illoh,Akinwumi J. Akinloye. Comparative foliar anatomy of three Khaya species (Meliaceae) used in Nigeria as antisickling agent[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(4): 279 -285 .
[9] YuMing Wei,XiaoFei Ma,PengShan Zhao. Transcriptomic comparison to identify rapidly evolving genes in Braya humilis[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 428 -435 .
[10] FangLei Zhong,AiJun Guo,XiaoJuan Yin,JinFeng Cui,Xiao Yang,YanQiong Zhang. Sociodemographic characteristics, cultural biases, and environmental attitudes: An empirical application of grid-group cultural theory in Northwestern China[J]. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2018, 10(5): 436 -446 .