Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2019, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (1): 41-49.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2017.00041

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Primary investigation of statistical correlation between changes in ice volume and area of glaciers

PuYu Wang1,*(),ZhongQin Li1,2,ChunHai Xu1,Ping Zhou1,WenBin Wang1,Shuang Jin1,HongLiang Li1   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Science/Tianshan Glaciological Station, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
    2. College of Geography and Environment Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
  • Received:2018-07-26 Accepted:2018-09-17 Online:2019-12-20 Published:2019-03-22
  • Contact: PuYu Wang
  • About author:PuYu Wang, Associate Professor of Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences. No. 320, West Donggang Road, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China.


This study makes an attempt to investigate through statistical analysis the correlation between changes in ice volume and area of glaciers. Using data from nine sample glaciers in the Tian Shan, the results show that a linear relation exists between changes in ice volume and area, with a correlation coefficient of 0.700. However, the accuracy estimation is difficult due to the limited number of samples. The correlation was not improved after adding eleven glacier samples in other mountains. Two reference glaciers are then analyzed in more detail. The linear correlation coefficient is higher than 0.800 when using the observed changes in ice volume and area during different periods on Urumqi Glacier No. 1, which suggests that the linear relation is valid for one glacier for different periods if its shape does not change noticeably and also for other glaciers of the same shape during the same period. The relation between changes in ice volume and area of Qingbingtan Glacier No. 72 is different during different periods due to change in the shape of the glacier tongue and the influence of the debris cover. Moreover, errors in glacier-change monitoring and -volume estimation have an important influence on the correlation results. Therefore, further study needs to focus not only on the distinction between glacier types and between different periods but also on the accuracy of volume estimation.

Key words: volume change, area change, thickness, statistical correlation, glaciers

Figure 1

The geographical surroundings of the study area and the location of nine glaciers monitored in the Chinese Tian Shan: (a) Miao'ergou Ice Cap, (b) Yushugou Glacier No. 6, (c) Sigonghe Glacier No. 4, (d) Fan-Shaped Diffluence Glacier, (e) Heigou Glacier No. 8, (f) Urumqi Glacier No. 1, (g) Haxilegen Glacier No. 51, (h) Keqikar Glacier, and (i) Qingbingtan Glacier No. 72"

Table 1

Data and methods used for calculating changes of ice volume and area for the nine selected glaciers"

Glacier name Location Area (km2) Elevation range (m) Aspect Volume change calculation method Sources
Qingbingtan Glacier No. 72



7.27 3,560?5,986 South Method (1) Luo et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2017b
Keqikar Glacier



83.56 3,020?6,342 South Method (3) Xie et al., 2006; Zhang et al., 2006
Urumqi Glacier No. 1



1.94 3,730?4,486 Northeast Method (1) Li et al., 2010a; Wang et al., 2016a
Haxilegen Glacier No. 51



1.48 3,400?4,000 Northeast Method (2) Wang et al., 2016b
Glacier No. 4 of Sigong River



3.33 3,600?4,350 West Method (1) Wu et al., 1983, 2011
Fan-shaped diffluence Glacier



3.47 3,620?5,445 Northwest Method (1) Wu et al., 1983; Li et al., 2010a; Wang et al., 2016c
Heigou Glacier No. 8



5.71 3,380?5,445 South Method (2) Wang et al., 2016c
Miao'ergou Ice Cap



3.45 3,840?4,500 Southwest Method (2) Li et al., 2007, 2010a; Wang et al., 2015
Yushugou Glacier No. 6



4.06 3,610?4,744 West Method (2) Wang et al., 2015

Figure 2

The relation between glacier-volume change and -area change obtained by (a) nine monitored glaciers; (b) twenty investigated glaciers in western China"

Figure 3

The surface elevation of Urumqi Glacier No. 1. The figure in the lower right corner was photographed by an unmanned aerial vehicle on April 25, 2018"

Table 2

Area- and volume-change ratios and their annual averages in the different periods since 1980 for Urumqi Glacier No. 1"

Period Area-change ratio Volume-change ratio Annual average area-change ratio Annual average volume-change ratio
1980?1986 1.075% ?3.549% ?0.179% ?0.593%
1986?1992 0.380% ?2.431% ?0.063% ?0.406%
1994?2000 0.517% ?5.210% ?0.086% ?0.871%
2000?2001 1.443% ?1.557% ?1.443% ?1.562%
2001?2006 1.815% ?6.003% ?0.363% ?1.205%
2006?2008 1.908% ?3.050% ?0.954% ?1.531%
2008?2012 3.343% ?5.731% ?0.836% ?1.438%
2012?2015 2.013% ?3.397% ?0.671% ?1.137%

Figure 4

The correlation between volume loss and area shrinkage for Urumqi Glacier No. 1"

Figure 5

Topographic map of Qingbingtan Glacier No. 72 and the surveyed area. The figure in the lower right corner is the satellite image from Google Earth"

Table 3

Area and volume change of Qingbingtan Glacier No. 72 for the different periods"

Period Area change Volume change Ratio of volume change to area change (m)
(km2) (km2/a) (km3) (km3/a)
1964?2000 ?1.356 ?0.0399 ?0.07931 ?0.0023 0.058
2000?2008 ?0.270 ?0.0337 ?0.03866 ?0.0048 0.143
2008?2015 ?0.160 ?0.0228 ?0.02846 ?0.0041 0.178
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