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Glacier Resources and Their Distributive Characteristics in China——A Review on Chinese Glacier Inventory

LIU Chao-hai, SHI Ya-feng, WANG Zong-tai, XIE Zi-chu (Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou Gansu 730000, China)  
According to the statistics of Chinese glacier inventory, which was finished in accordance with the guidelines of world glacier inventory and published in 11 volumes with 21 copes, China has 46 298 glaciers with 59 406 km 2 of area and 5 590 km 3 of ice reserve. Glacier area in China accounts for 14.5% of the global and 47.6% of Asian mountain glacier area, respectively, that is to say, China is a country with best developed mountain glaciers in the middle and low-latitude. The glacier inventory was compiled in accordance with the mountain systems and river systems. Some 14 systems are distributed from north to south in west China, including the Altay Mts., Tianshan Mts., Kunlun Mts. and Himalayas etc. Among them, the glaciers in five mountains, namely the Tianshan Mts., Karakorum Mts., Kunlun Mts., Nyainqentanglha Mts. and Himalayas, occupy 79% in area and 84% in ice reserve of the total in China, respectively. It is particularly worth noting that the huge west Kunlun Mountain has 6 580 glaciers with a glacier area of 10 844 km 2 , being the largest glaciated region in China. The glaciers in the interior region of China occupy 60% in area and 64% in ice reserve of the total in China, respectively. Among them the number of glaciers in the Tarim water system, dominated by the Tarim River and surrounded by the Tianshan Mts., Pamirs, Karakorum Mts. and Kunlun Mts., is largest, with area and ice reserve accounting for 56% and 65% of the total of the interior region, respectively. Glaciers of exterior region are located in the source area of the Yangtse River, Yellow River and the Yarlung Zangbo River etc. The glaciers in the basin of the Yarlung Zangbo River are most developed, their area and ice reserve occupy 61% and 70% of the total in the exterior region. Basins with a glacier area of more than 1 000 km 2 are basins of the Pumqu River, Yangtse River, Nujiang River and the upper Indus River etc. The glacier inventory data and the new knowledge about glacier and snow line elevation distribution have important scientific and practical significance to the water resource utilization and snow and ice hazard control in mountain regions in western China.
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