In the source area of the Ürümqi River, during the glacier ablation season, net radiation is the only heat input to the tundra, averaging 119W m−2 in July and August, more than twice that to the glacier, where additional heat input is contributed by sensible heat. The heat input to the tundra is mostly lost by evaporation, which accounts for 86%, while the input to the glacier is mostly lost by melting. The relatively small heat input to the glacier and the large evaporation rate of its surroundings favour the glacier’s existence. Most precipitation occurs between June and August, accounting for 66% of the annual total. Precipitation increases with altitude in average conditions during the ablation season; the annual precipitation is estimated to be about 650 mm at the mean equilibrium line altitude of 4030 m. This amount is considerably larger than that of the surrounding area. Evaporation is estimated at 270 mm a−1 on the tundra, reducing the runofTin a rather large proportion, and 120 mm a−1 on the glacier. Almost all runoff takes place between May and September, and is mostly concentrated in July and August when the glacier melt is the most intense. When air temperature is high during the ablation period, although the precipitation is less, runoff could peak because of the glacier melt. Based on the measured runoff and estimated regional precipitation and evaporation, the glacier mass balance is calculated and discussed.