Skip to main content Accessibility help

Glacier velocity measurements in the eastern Yigong Zangbo basin, Tibet, China

  • Chang-Qing Ke (a1) (a2), Cheng Kou (a1), Ralf Ludwig (a3) and Xiang Qin (a2)


We apply the feature-tracking method to L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images to derive detailed motion patterns of glaciers in the Yigong Zangbo basin during summer 2007. The results indicate that the flow patterns are generally constrained by the valley geometry and terrain complexity. The mean velocities of the 12 glaciers were 15–206 m a−1,with a maximum of 423 m a−1 for Glacier No. 5a. The majority of the glaciers exhibited high and low velocities in their upper and lower sections, respectively. The glacier area ranges from 3 to 42 km2. It is found that velocity shows a positive correlation with the glacier area and length. Many small-scale temporal/spatial variations in the glacier flow patterns were observed along the central glacier flowline.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Glacier velocity measurements in the eastern Yigong Zangbo basin, Tibet, China
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Glacier velocity measurements in the eastern Yigong Zangbo basin, Tibet, China
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Glacier velocity measurements in the eastern Yigong Zangbo basin, Tibet, China
      Available formats



Hide All
Barry, RG (2006) The status of research on glaciers and global glacier recession: a review. Progr. Phys. Geogr., 30(3), 285306 (doi: 10.1191/0309133306pp478ra)
Bechor, NBD and Zebker, HA (2006) Measuring two-dimensional movements using a single InSAR pair. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33(16), L16311 (doi: 10.1029/2006GL026883)
Berthier, E and 7 others (2005) Surface motion of mountain glaciers derived from satellite optical imagery. Remote Sens. Environ., 95(1), 1428 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2004.11.005)
Berthier, E, Arnaud, Y, Kumar, R, Ahmad, S, Wagnon, P and Chevallier, P (2007) Remote sensing estimates of glacier mass balances in the Himachal Pradesh (Western Himalaya, India). Remote Sens. Environ., 108(3), 327338 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2006.11.017)
Bindschadler, RA and Scambos, TA (1991) Satellite-image-derived velocity field of an Antarctic ice stream. Science, 252(5003), 242246 (doi: 10.1126/science.252.5003.242)
Ciappa, A, Pietranera, L and Battazza, F (2010) Perito Moreno Glacier (Argentina) flow estimation by COSMO SkyMed sequence of high-resolution SAR-X imagery. Remote Sens. Environ., 114(9), 20882096 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2010.04.014)
Cui, H and Wang, J (2013) The methods for estimating the equilibrium line altitudes of a glacier. J. Glaciol. Geocryol., 35(2), 345354 [in Chinese with English summary]
Dowdeswell, JA, Unwin, B, Nuttall, A-M and Wingham, DJ (1999) Velocity structure, flow instability and mass flux on a large Arctic ice cap from satellite radar interferometry. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 167(3–4), 131140 (doi: 10.1016/S0012-821X(99)00034-5)
Dyurgerov, MB and Meier, MF (2000) Twentieth century climate change: evidence from small glaciers. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (PNAS), 97(4), 14061411 (doi: 10.1073/pnas.97.4.1406)
Erten, E, Reigber, A, Hellwich, O and Prats, P (2009) Glacier velocity monitoring by maximum likelihood texture tracking. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 47(2), 394405 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2008.2009932)
Fahnestock, M, Bindschadler, R, Kwok, R and Jezek, K (1993) Greenland ice sheet surface properties and ice dynamics from ERS-1 SAR imagery. Science, 262(5139), 15301534 (doi: 10.1126/science.262.5139.1530)
Fallourd, R and 15 others (2011) Monitoring temperate glacier displacement by multi-temporal TerraSAR-X images and continuous GPS measurements. IEEE J. Select. Topics Appl. Earth Obs. Remote. Sens., 4(2), 372386 (doi: 10.1109/JSTARS.2010.2096200)
Glantz, MH ed. (1999) Creeping environmental problems and sustainable development in the Aral Sea basin. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Gourmelen, N, Kim, SW, Shepherd, A, Park, JW, Sundal, AV and Björnsson, H (2011) Ice velocity determined using conventional and multiple-aperture InSAR. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 307(1–2), 156160 (doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2011.04.026)
Haeberli, W, Maisch, M and Paul, F (2002) Mountain glaciers in global climate-related observation networks. WMO Bull., 51(1), 1825
Haug, T, Kääb, A and Skvarca, P (2010) Monitoring ice shelf velocities from repeat MODIS and Landsat data – a method study on the Larsen C ice shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, and 10 other ice shelves around Antarctica. Cryosphere, 4(2), 161178 (doi: 10.5194/tc-4-161-2010)
Heid, T and Kääb, A (2012) Repeat optical satellite images reveal widespread and long term decrease in land-terminating glacier speeds. Cryosphere, 6(2), 467478 (doi: 10.5194/tc-6-467-2012)
Huang, L and Li, Z (2012) Comparison of SAR and optical data in deriving glacier velocity with feature tracking. Int. J. Remote Sens., 32(10), 26812698 (doi: 10.1080/01431161003720395)
Huang, M and Sun, Z (1982) Some flow characteristics of continental-type glaciers in China. J. Glaciol. Geocryol., 4(2), 3545 [in Chinese with English summary]
Jiang, Z and 6 others (2012) Analyzing Yengisogat Glacier surface velocities with ALOS PALSAR data feature tracking, Karakoram, China. Environ. Earth Sci., 67(4), 10331043 (doi: 10.1007/s12665-012-1563-9)
Jing, Z, Zhou, Z and Liu, L (2010) Progress of the research on glacier velocities in China. J. Glaciol. Geocryol., 32(4), 749754 [in Chinese with English summary]
Joughin, IR, Winebrenner, DP and Fahnestock, MA (1995) Observations of ice-sheet motion in Greenland using satellite radar interferometry. Geophys. Res. Lett., 22(5), 571574 (doi: 10.1029/95GL00264)
Joughin, I, Abdalati, W and Fahnestock, MA (2004) Large fluctuations in speed on Greenland’s Jakobshavn Isbræ glacier. Nature, 432(7017), 608610 (doi: 10.1038/nature03130)
Joughin, I, Das, SB, King, MA, Smith, BE, Howat, IM and Moon, T (2008) Seasonal speedup along the western flank of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Science, 320(5877), 781783 (doi: 10.1126/science.1153288)
Joughin, I, Smith, BE and Abdalati, W (2010) Glaciological advances made with interferometric synthetic aperture radar. J. Glaciol., 56(200), 10261042 (doi: 10.3189/002214311796406158)
Kääb, A (2005) Combination of SRTM3 and repeat ASTER data for deriving alpine glacier flow velocities in the Bhutan Himalaya. Remote Sens. Environ., 94(4), 463474 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2004.11.003)
Kang, S, Xu, Y, You, Q, Flügel, W-A, Pepin, N and Yao, T (2010) Review of climate and cryospheric change in the Tibetan Plateau. Environ. Res. Lett., 5(1), 015101 (doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/5/1/015101)
Kaser, G, Cogley, JG, Dyurgerov, MB, Meier, MF and Ohmura, A (2006) Mass balance of glaciers and ice caps: consensus estimates for 1961–2004. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33(19), L19501 (doi: 10.1029/2006GL027511)
Khromova, TE, Dyurgerov, MB and Barry, RG (2003) Late-twentieth century changes in glacier extent in the Ak-shirak Range, Central Asia, determined from historical data and ASTER imagery. Geophys. Res. Lett., 30(16), 1863 (doi: 10.1029/2003GL017233)
Korup, O and Montgomery, DR (2008) Tibetan plateau river incision inhibited by glacial stabilization of the Tsangpo gorge. Nature, 455(7214), 786789 (doi: 10.1038/nature07322)
Liu, S and 7 others (2006) Glacier retreat as a result of climate warming and increased precipitation in the Tarim river basin, northwest China. Ann. Glaciol., 43, 9196 (doi: 10.3189/172756406781812168)
Luckman, A, Murray, T, de Lange, R and Hanna, E (2006) Rapid and synchronous ice-dynamic changes in East Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33(3), L03503 (doi: 10.1029/2005GL025428)
Luckman, A, Quincey, DJ and Bevan, S (2007) The potential of satellite radar interferometry and feature tracking for monitoring flow rates of Himalayan glaciers. Remote Sens. Environ., 111(2–3), 172181 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2007.05.019)
Nakamura, K, Doi, K and Shibuya, K (2007) Estimation of seasonal changes in the flow of Shirase Glacier using JERS-1/SAR image correlation. Polar Sci., 1(2–4), 7383 (doi: 10.1016/j.polar.2007.09.002)
Niederer, P, Bilenko, V, Ershova, N, Hurni, H, Yerokhin, S and Maselli, D (2008) Tracing glacier wastage in the Northern Tien Shan (Kyrgyzstan/Central Asia) over the last 40 years. Climatic Change, 86(1–2), 227234 (doi: 10.1007/s10584-007-9288-6)
Oerlemans, J (2005) Extracting a climate signal from 169 glacier records. Science, 308(5722), 675677 (doi: 10.1126/science.1107046)
Oerlemans, J and Fortuin, JPF (1992) Sensitivity of glaciers and small ice caps to greenhouse warming. Science, 258(5079), 115117
Parry, ML, Canziani, OF, Palutikof, JP, Van der Linden, PJ and Hanson, CE (2007) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Paul, F, Huggel, C and Kääb, A (2004a) Combining satellite multispectral image data and a digital elevation model for mapping debris-covered glaciers. Remote Sens. Environ., 89(4), 510518 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2003.11.007)
Paul, F, Kääb, A, Maisch, M, Kellenberger, T and Haeberli, W (2004b) Rapid disintegration of Alpine glaciers observed with satellite data. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31(21), L21402 (doi: 10.1029/2004GL020816)
Reuter, HI, Nelson, A and Jarvis, A (2007) An evaluation of void-filling interpolation methods for SRTM data. Int. J. Geogr. Inf. Sci., 21(9), 9831008 (doi: 10.1080/13658810601169899)
Rignot, E and Kanagaratnam, P (2006) Changes in the velocity structure of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Science, 311(5673), 986990 (doi: 10.1126/science.1121381)
Rignot, E and 6 others (2008) Recent Antarctic ice mass loss from radar interferometry and regional climate modelling. Nature Geosci., 1(2), 106110 (doi: 10.1038/ngeo102)
Rignot, E, Mouginot, J and Scheuchl, B (2011) Ice flow of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Science, 333(6048), 14271430 (doi: 10.1126/science.1208336)
Rosanova, CE, Lucchitta, BK and Ferrigno, JG (1998) Velocities of Thwaites Glacier and smaller glaciers along the Marie Byrd Land coast, West Antarctica. Ann. Glaciol., 27, 4753
Scherler, D and Strecker, MR (2012) Large surface velocity fluctuations of Biafo Glacier, central Karakoram, at high spatial and temporal resolution from optical satellite images. J. Glaciol., 58(209), 569580 (doi: 10.3189/2012JoG11J096)
Scherler, D, Leprince, S and Strecker, MR (2008) Glacier-surface velocities in alpine terrain from optical satellite imagery: accuracy improvement and quality assessment. Remote Sens. Environ., 112(10), 38063819 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2008.05.018)
Shi, YF and Xie, ZC (1964) The basic features of current glaciers in China. Acta Geogr. Sin., 30(3), 183208 [in Chinese with English summary]
Strozzi, T, Luckman, A, Murray, T, Wegmuller, U and Werner, CL (2002) Glacier motion estimation using satellite-radar offset-tracking procedures. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 40(11), 28342391 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2002.805079)
Strozzi, T, Wiesmann, A, Sharov, A, Kouraev, A, Wegmüller, U and Werner, C (2006) Capabilities of L-band SAR data for arctic glacier motion estimation. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Geoscience and Remote Sensing (IGARSS 2006), 31 July–4 August 2006, Denver, CO, USA. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineeers, Piscataway, NJ, 3799
Strozzi, T, Kouraev, A, Wiesmann, A, Wegmüller, U, Sharov, A and Werner, C (2008) Estimation of Arctic glacier motion with satellite L-band SAR data. Remote Sens. Environ., 112(3), 636645 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2007.06.007)
Wuite, J, Jezek, KC, Wu, X, Farness, K and Carande, R (2009) The velocity field and flow regime of David Glacier and Drygalski Ice Tongue, Antarctica. Polar Geogr., 32(3/4), 111127 (doi: 10.1080/10889370902815499)
Xie, C and Liu, C (2009) An introduction to glaciology. Shanghai Popular Science Press, Shanghai [in Chinese]
Yao, T, Wang, Y, Liu, S, Pu, J, Shen, Y and Lu, A (2004) Recent glacial retreat in High Asia in China and its impact on water resource in Northwest China. Sci. China D, 47(12), 10651075 (doi: 10.1360/03yd0256)
Yao, T, Pu, J, Lu, A, Wang, Y and Yu, W (2007) Recent glacial retreat and its impact on hydrological processes on the Tibetan Plateau, China, and surrounding regions. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 39(4), 642650 (doi: 10.1657/1523-0430(07-510)
Yao, T and 7 others (2010) Glacial distribution and mass balance in the Yarlung Zangbo River and its influence on lakes. Chinese Sci. Bull., 55(20), 20722078 (doi: 10.1007/s11434-010-3213-5)
Yao, T and 14 others (2012) Different glacier status with atmospheric circulations in Tibetan Plateau and surroundings. Nature Climate Change, 2(9), 663667 (doi: 10.1038/nclimate1580)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed