Distribution and recent variations of supraglacial lakes on dendritic-type glaciers in the Khan Tengri-Tomur Mountains, Central Asia
Q. Liu1, C. Mayer2, and S. Liu31Key Laboratory of Mountain Surface Processes and Ecological Regulation, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu, China 2Commission for Geodesy and Glaciology, Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Munich, Germany 3Stake Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China
Received: 31 Aug 2013 – Accepted for review: 02 Sep 2013 – Discussion started: 09 Sep 2013
Abstract. Supraglacial lakes are widely distributed on glaciers in the Tomur-Khan Tengri Tianshan Mountains, Central Asia. The existence and development of supraglacial lakes play an important role in the ice melting processes and also in the storage and release of glacial melt water. Here we mapped the supraglacial lakes of eight typical debris-covered dendritic-type glaciers around the Tomur-Khan Tengri peaks based on 9 Landsat TM/ETM+ images acquired in the summers of 1990 until 2011. With a lower area limit of 3600 m2 for a conservative identification of glacial lakes, we mapped 775 supraglacial lakes and 38 marginal glacial lakes in total. Our results indicate that supraglacial lakes (area > 3600 m2) in the study region never develop beyond an elevation of about 3850 m a.s.l., 800 m lower than the maximum upper boundary of debris cover (4650 m a.s.l.). The area-elevation distribution shows that lakes are predominantly occured close to the altitude of 3250 m a.s.l., where the clean ice simultaneously disappears. The majority of the supraglacial lakes are found on the Tomur Glacier and the South Inylchek Glacier, two strongly debris-covered dendritic-type glaciers in the region. As for the multi-year variation of lake area, the summer total and mean areas of supraglacial lakes show some variability from 1990 and 2005 but increased noticeably between 2005 and 2011. The mean area of the mapped lakes reached a maximum in 2010. We found that the area of supraglacial lakes is positively correlated to the total precipitation in summer (July to September) but negatively correlated to the mean spring air temperature (April to June). Pre-summer air temperature fluctuations likely have a stronger impact on the different evolution processes of glacial drainage, evolving from unconnected to connected systems, which may lead to the drainage of larger supraglacial lakes and results in shrinkage of the total and mean lake area during the summer.
Liu, Q., Mayer, C., and Liu, S.: Distribution and recent variations of supraglacial lakes on dendritic-type glaciers in the Khan Tengri-Tomur Mountains, Central Asia, The Cryosphere Discuss., 7, 4545-4584, doi:10.5194/tcd-7-4545-2013, 2013.