Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/tc-2016-254
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
08 Nov 2016
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper was accepted for the journal The Cryosphere (TC) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Mapping and inventorying active rock glaciers in the Northern Tien Shan (China) using satellite SAR interferometry
Xiaowen Wang1,2, Lin Liu1, Lin Zhao1, Tonghua Wu3, Zhongqin Li3, and Guoxiang Liu2 1Earth System Science Programme, Faculty of Science, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
2Department of Remote Sensing and Geospatial Information Engineering, Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu, China
3Northwest Insti tute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China
Abstract. Rock glaciers are widespread in the high mountains of western China. However, they have not been systematically investigated for more than two decades. In this study, we propose a new method that combines SAR interferometry and optical images from Google Earth to map active rock glaciers (ARGs) in the Northern Tien Shan (NTS) in China. We compiled an inventory that includes 261 ARGs and quantitative information about their locations, geomorphic parameters, and down-slope velocities. Our inventory shows that most of the ARGs are moraine-derived (68 %) and facing north-east (56 %). The altitude distribution of ARGs in the western NTS is significantly different from those located in the eastern part. The down-slope velocities of the ARGs vary significantly in space, with a maximum of about 114 cm yr−1 and a mean of about 37 cm yr−1. Using the ARG locations as a proxy for the extent of alpine permafrost, our inventory suggests that the lowest altitudinal limit for the presence of permafrost in the Northern Tien Shan is about 2500–2800 m, a range determined by the lowest ARG in the entire inventory and by a statistics-based estimation. The successful application of the proposed method would facilitate an effective and robust effort to map rock glaciers over major mountain ranges and provide important datasets to improve mapping and modeling permafrost distribution in vast western China.

Citation: Wang, X., Liu, L., Zhao, L., Wu, T., Li, Z., and Liu, G.: Mapping and inventorying active rock glaciers in the Northern Tien Shan (China) using satellite SAR interferometry, The Cryosphere Discuss., doi:10.5194/tc-2016-254, in review, 2016.
Xiaowen Wang et al.
Xiaowen Wang et al.

Viewed

Total article views: 359 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)

HTML PDF XML Total Supplement BibTeX EndNote
195 135 29 359 6 9 29

Views and downloads (calculated since 08 Nov 2016)

Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 08 Nov 2016)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 359 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)

Thereof 358 with geography defined and 1 with unknown origin.

Country # Views %
  • 1

Saved

Discussed

Latest update: 29 Mar 2017
Publications Copernicus
Download
Short summary
Rock glaciers are abundant in high mountains in western China but have been ignored for 20 years. We used a new remote-sensing-based method to map active rock glaciers in the Northern Tien Shan and compiled an inventory of 261 active rock glaciers and included quantitative information about their locations, geomorphic parameters, and down-slope velocities. Our dataset suggests that the lower limit of permafrost there is 2500–2800 m.
Rock glaciers are abundant in high mountains in western China but have been ignored for 20...
Share