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Remote Sens. 2017, 9(2), 114; doi:10.3390/rs9020114

Remote Sensing of Glacier Change in the Central Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Relationship with Changing Climate

1
Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong 999077, China
2
Institute for Climate and Global Change Research, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Qiusheng Wu, Charles Lane, Melanie Vanderhoof, Chunqiao Song, Magaly Koch and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 21 October 2016 / Revised: 16 January 2017 / Accepted: 23 January 2017 / Published: 29 January 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Climate Change and Water Resources)
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Abstract

The widely distributed glaciers over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) represent important freshwater reserves and the meltwater feeds many major rivers of Asia. Glacier change over the QTP has shown high temporal and spatial variability in recent decades, and the driving forces of the variability are not yet clear. This study examines the area and thickness change of glaciers in the Dongkemadi (DKMD) region over central QTP by exploring all available Landsat images from 1976 to 2013 and satellite altimetry data over 2003–2008, and then analyzes the relationships between glacier variation and local and macroscale climate factors based on various remote sensing and re-analysis data. Results show that the variation of glacier area over 1976–2013 is characterized by significant shrinkage at a linear rate of −0.31 ± 0.04 km2·year−1. Glacier retreat slightly accelerated in the 2000s, and the mean glacier surface elevation lowered at a rate of −0.56 m·year−1 over 2003–2008. During the past 38 years, glacier change in the DKMD area was dominated by the variation of mean annual temperature, and was influenced by the state of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The mechanism linking climate variability over the central QTP and the state of NAO is most likely via changes in the strength of westerlies and Siberian High. We found no evidence supporting the role of summer monsoons (Indian summer monsoon and East Asian monsoon) in driving local climate and glacier changes. In addition, El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) may be associated with the extreme weather (snow storm) in October 1986 and 2000 which might have led to significant glacier expansion in the following years. Further research is needed to better understand the physical mechanisms linking NAO, ENSO and climate variability over the mid-latitude central QTP. View Full-Text
Keywords: glacier; Qinghai-Tibet Plateau; remote sensing; climate change; North Atlantic Oscillation glacier; Qinghai-Tibet Plateau; remote sensing; climate change; North Atlantic Oscillation
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Ke, L.; Ding, X.; Li, W.; Qiu, B. Remote Sensing of Glacier Change in the Central Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Relationship with Changing Climate. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 114.

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