We conducted a 9-d seismic experiment in October 2015 at Laohugou Glacier No. 12. We identified microseismic signals using the short-term/long-term average trigger algorithm at four stations and classified them as long and short-duration events based on waveform, frequency, duration and magnitude characteristics. Both categories show systematical diurnal trends. The long-duration events are low-frequency tremor-like events that mainly occurred during the daytime with only several events per day. These events lasted tens of seconds to tens of minutes and are likely related to resonance of daytime meltwater. The dominant short-duration events mostly occurred during the night time with a peak occurrence frequency of ~360 h−1. Their short-duration (<0.2 s), high frequency (20–100 Hz) and dominance of Rayleigh waves are typical of events for near-surface crack opening. A strong negative correlation between the hourly event number and temperature change rate suggests that the occurrence of night-time events is controlled by the rate of night-time cooling. We estimated the near-surface tensile stress due to thermal contraction at night to be tens of kilopascals, which is enough to induce opening of surface cracks with pre-existing local stress concentrations, although we cannot exclude the effect of refreezing of meltwater produced during the day.