Glacier area and snow cover changes in the range system surrounding tarim from 2000 to 2020 using google earth engine

Jing Zhang, Li Jia*, Massimo Menenti, Jie Zhou, Shaoting Ren

*Corresponding author for this work

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Glacier and snow are sensitive indicators of regional climate variability. In the early 21st century, glaciers in the West Kunlun and Pamir regions showed stable or even slightly positive mass budgets, and this is anomalous in a worldwide context of glacier recession. We studied the evolution of snow cover to understand whether it could explain the evolution of glacier area. In this study, we used the thresholding of the NDSI (Normalized Difference Snow Index) retrieved with MODIS data to extract annual glacier area and snow cover. We evaluated how the glacier trends related to snow cover area in five subregions in the Tarim Basin. The uncertainty in our retrievals was assessed by comparing MODIS results with the Landsat-5 TM in 2000 and Landsat-8 OLI in 2020 glacier delineation in five subregions. The glacier area in the Tarim Basin decreased by 1.32%/a during 2000–2020. The fastest reductions were in the East Tien Shan region, while the slowest relative reduction rate was observed in the West Tien Shan and Pamir, i.e., 0.69%/a and 1.08%/a, respectively, during 2000–2020. The relative glacier stability in Pamir may be related to the westerlies weather system, which dominates climate in this region. We studied the temporal variability of snow cover on different temporal scales. The analysis of the monthly snow cover showed that permanent snow can be reliably delineated in the months from July to September. During the summer months, the sequence of multiple snowfall and snowmelt events leads to intermittent snow cover, which was the key feature applied to discriminate snow and glacier.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5117
Number of pages24
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Climate change
  • Glacier area
  • Snow cover
  • Tarim Basin


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