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Advances in Meteorology
Volume 2015, Article ID 847257, 12 pages
Research Article

Glacial Area Changes in the Ili River Catchment (Northeastern Tian Shan) in Xinjiang, China, from the 1960s to 2009

1State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (CAREERI), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Received 18 December 2014; Revised 27 April 2015; Accepted 30 April 2015

Academic Editor: Charles Jones

Copyright © 2015 Junli Xu et al. 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.


The Ili River originates in the Tian Shan Mountains of Northwest China before flowing into Kazakhstan and Lake Balkash. Melting snow and ice are its major contributors. We analyzed glacial changes in the upper Ili River basin between the 1960s and 2007/2009 using topographic maps and satellite imagery from a Landsat TM. The relationships between glacial changes and glacial size, topographic factors, and debris cover were examined. Our results found that total glacial area decreased by 485 ± 177.3 km2 (24.2% ± 8.8%) during the study period, and there were no advancing glaciers. Additionally, 331 glaciers disappeared and 18 disintegrated into two or three smaller glaciers. This study demonstrated a linear relationship between glacial area change and elevation. Changes in glaciers smaller than 1 km2 were affected by both glacial size and topographic factors, while larger ones were affected by size only. Area losses in debris-covered glaciers were smaller by 2.5% to 7.5% compared to clean ice of the same size in this basin. As in other glaciated regions, glacial retreat in the Ili River basin is attributed to global warming. The slightly increasing precipitation over the study period could not offset the ice melting.