May 24, 2018
Suhai Hu, Quilian Mountains Ice Cap in 1999 and 2016 Landsat image indicating five different outlet glacier termini that all ended in proglacial lakes in 1999 and all retreated significantly by 2016.
Here we examine an unnamed icecap that I refer to as the “Suhai Hu” Ice Cap and five of its largest outlet glaciers in the Qilian Mountains in northwest China, with Landsat imagery from 1999-2016. The northern outlet glaciers drain into the Suhai Hu and the southern outlet glaciers into Quidam Hu. Glaciers in the Gansu Province have shrunk by 36 square kilometers, a 4.2 percent loss, during the past decade Quiang (2016). Tian et al (2014) report Qilian Mountain glacier area shrank by 30% from 1956 to 2010 and the shrinkage accelerated remarkably in the past two decades. Yang et al (2015) Results show that mountain glaciers in China are very vulnerable to climate change with 41% of glaciers having had a high vulnerability in the period 1961–2007.
In 1999 all five outlets, indicated by arrows terminate in proglacial lakes, with the northwest outlet comprise of two tributaries that join just above the terminus. In 2001 the outlets still terminate in glacier lakes. By 2015 two of the outlet glaciers at the orange and red arrow have retreated from the proglacial lakes they had terminated in. The northwest outlet glacier, green arrow, the tributaries had separated. From 1999 to 2016 the proglacial lake at the purple arrow has expanded from 600 m in length to 850 m. The lake at the yellow arrow expanded from 450 m in length to 850 m in length from 1999-2016. each of the five outlet glaciers has retreated significantly from 1999-2016. All 8 summer Landsat images examined indicate the ice cap always has substantial retained snowcover, and will not disappear with current climate. In a close up view of the terminus of the yellow outlet glacier there are prominent crevasses near the calving ice front, green arrow and supraglacial streams , blue arrows. The retreat here is similar to but less than that observed at Gangg’er Glacier in the Shule River Basin, Qilian Mountains.
Suhai Hu, Quilian Mountains Ice Cap in 2001 and 2015 Landsat image indicating five different outlet glacier termini that all ended in proglacial lakes in 2001 and all retreated significantly by 2015.
Google Earth image at the yellow outlet glacier. Green arrow indicates crevassing near front and blue arrows supraglacial streams.