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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 07 Aug 2018

Research article | 07 Aug 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Long-range terrestrial laser scanning measurements of summer and annual mass balances for Urumqi Glacier No. 1, eastern Tien Shan, China

Chunhai Xu1,2, Zhongqin Li1, Huilin Li1,2, Feiteng Wang1, and Ping Zhou1 Chunhai Xu et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science/Tien Shan Glaciological Station, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Abstract. The direct glaciological method typically provides in situ observations of annual or seasonal surface mass balance, but can only be implemented through a succession of intensive in situ measurements of measuring networks of stakes and snow pits. This has contributed to glacier surface mass-balance measurements being sparse and often discontinuous in the Tien Shan. Nevertheless, long-term glacier mass-balance measurements are the basis for understanding climate–glacier interactions and projecting future water availability for glacierized catchments in the Tien Shan. Riegl VZ®-6000 long-range terrestrial laser scanning (TLS), typically using class 3B laser beams, is exceptionally well suited for measuring snowy and icy terrain in repeated glacier mapping, and subsequently annual and seasonal geodetic mass balance can be determined. This paper introduces the applied TLS for monitoring summer and annual surface elevation and geodetic mass changes of Urumqi Glacier No. 1 (UG1) as well as delineating accurate glacier boundaries for two consecutive years (2015-17), and discusses the potential of such technology in glaciological applications. Three-dimensional changes of ice and firn/snow bodies and the corresponding densities were considered for the volume-to-mass conversion. UG1 showed pronounced thinning and mass loss for the four investigated periods; glacier-wide geodetic mass balance in the mass-balance year 2015-16 was slightly more negative than in 2016-17. The majority of TLS-derived geodetic elevation changes at individual stakes were slightly positive, but showed a close correlation with the glaciological elevation changes (changes in exposed stake height) of individual stakes (R2 ≥ 0.90). Statistical comparison shows that agreement between the glaciological and geodetic mass balances can be considered satisfying, indicating that the TLS system yields accurate results and has the potential to monitor remote and inaccessible glacier areas where no glaciological measurements are available.

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Chunhai Xu et al.
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Short summary
We take Urumqi Glacier No. 1 as a case and use a long-range terrestrial laser scanner to measure summer and annual geodetic mass balances of the glacier for two consecutive years. Our analysis suggests that the TLS system yields accurate results and has huge application potential for glacier mass-balance monitoring, especially for remote and inaccessible glaciers in western China. We thereby put forward some main considerations for a broader application of the TLS.
We take Urumqi Glacier No. 1 as a case and use a long-range terrestrial laser scanner to measure...