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  • Station or site: CryoNet Site
  • Type: Basic
  • WMO ID (if any): 11
  • Shape: polygon
  • Latitude, longitude: 43.2, 87.12
  • Altitude and/or range (m): 500-7443
  • Landscape: Coastal
  • Year established: 1959
  • Year-round? Yes
  • Operations contact: Zhongqin Li
  • Science contact: Feiteng Wang
  • Data contact: Huilin Li
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Tianshan site
Basic CryoNet Site Information

The Tianshan Glacier Station, is a state key observatory of China. The station is located on the Urumqi River Basin where the well-known Urumqi Glacier No. 1 is located. Six reference sites are distributed along the Tianshan Montains, and each site contains at least one long-term monitored glacier. These glaciers are Miao’ergou icecap, Bogeda Feng, Kuitun No. 51, Keqikaer, and Shenqi Feng. We also include one reference site located in Altay into East Tianshan Cryosphere Observing Network. The long-term observation of cryospheric components, such as glaciers, snow cover and frozen ground, in the "supersite" was initiated in 1959 with the foundation of Tianshan Glaciological Station (TGS) at the headwater of the Urumqi River. The relevant observations in the seven reference sites have operated regularly since 1998. Today, East Tianshan Cryosphere Observing Network is basically maintained by TGS and generates various observational data on changes in cryospheric components with time, as well as statistical data on the spatial distribution of glacier inventories in East Tianshan. Such parameters are key variables in climate system monitoring; they form a basis for hydrological modeling with respect to possible effects of atmospheric warming on arid and semi-arid lands in central Asia. The current tasks of East Tianshan Cryosphere Observing Network include: (1) in-situ observations with remote sensing data; (2) traditional measurements with new technologies by using an integrated and multi-level strategy; (3) to collect and publish standardized data relating to cryospheric components in regular intervals; (4) to periodically assess ongoing changes; (5) to stimulate satellite observations of cryospheric components in order to reach global coverage;(6) to improve physical process understanding and calibration of numerical models.

Stations in This Site

This site is comprised of the following stations:

Broad Research Focus

The Tianshan site focus on the basic observation study of glacier and glacier observation regions. Focusing on the glacier, the research includes the following two aspects. One is about the glacier itself, its procedure and system. Through the study of glacier’s physical, chemical and biological process and its biogeochemical cycle, the evolutionary processes and transformation rules of glacier are revealed and the future changes are predicted. The main research includes the observation and monitoring of glacier, the change process of glacier, the mechanism and simulation of glacier, and the record of climate environment. The other is about the mutual effect among the glacier and other elements of cryosphere. The mutual effects among glacier and atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere are studied and multiple effects of glacier change are analyzed, providing scientific and technical support for formulating adaptable policies of glacier change. The main research includes the water rescources of cryosphere, ecological effect, glacier disaster, the adaptive stratigies of glacier change, and so on.

Representativeness of the Site

Tianshan site was set up in 1959, a time of beginning glaciology in China. Its foundation was an indication of the start of Chinese glaciology and the change from the field investigation to the located observation experimentations. The study of Urumqi Glacier No.1, Tianshan Mountains has crucial influence on the formation and development of the theory of Chinese glaciology. The international classical glaciology theory was based on the study of ocean glacier and ice sheet, which was short of the observational study of inland glacier. This blankness was completed by the observation research of Tianshan Glaciological Station, which was of great influence on the development of international glaciology.

Other Networks to Which This CryoNet Site Belongs

Measurement Methods Used

Data Information


Zhongqin Li, Huilin Li, Yaning Chen. Mechanisms and simulation of accelerated shrinkage of continental glaciers: a case study of Urumqi Glacier No.1 in Eastern Tianshan, Central Asia. Journal of Earth Science, 2011, 22(4), 423-430.
Cunde Xiao, Zhongqin Li, Lin Zhao, Shichang Kang,Yuanqing He, Xiang Qin, Xiaobo He. High Asia cryospheric observation:a proposed network under Global Cryosphere Watch(GCW). Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 2012, 4(1), 1-12.


The measurements made at Tianshan site are listed in the following tables. This is a combination of measurements made at the stations within the site, where the start and end years in the tables are the earliest and latest years of measurement. (Note: If End Year is blank, measurements are ongoing.)

Cryosphere Measurements

Element Variable Start Year End Year
SnowSnow water equivalent2003
SnowSnowpack profile2003
PermafrostSoil temperature1980
PermafrostActive layer depth1980
PermafrostSeasonal frost heave/thaw subsidence1980
PermafrostAnnual surface elevation change1980
PermafrostDuration of thaw1980
PermafrostOnset of seasonal freezing1980
PermafrostDepth of seasonal freezing1980
GlacierAnnual mass balance1959
GlacierWinter mass balance1959
GlacierGlacial runoff1959
GlacierGlacial discharge1959
GlacierSurface topography1959
GlacierFacies, snowline1959
GlacierSurface temperature1980
GlacierSurface albedo2004
GlacierIce/firn temperature1980

Atmosphere Measurements

Element Variable Start Year End Year
MetAir temperature2005
MetHumidity/vapour pressure2005
MetWind speed and direction2005
MetAir pressure2005
MetTotal precipitation2005
RadiationDownwelling shortwave2005
RadiationUpwelling shortwave2005
RadiationDownwelling longwave2005
RadiationUpwelling longwave2005
RadiationSunshine duration2005

Measurement Notes and Other Measurements

Category Description or List
Permafrost 0.
Seasonally frozen ground 0.
Glacier 0. 0.
Icesheet 0. 0.
Iceshelf 0. 0.
Iceberg 0. 0.
Atmosphere 0. 0.
HydrologyStreamflow parameters are measured at three hydrometeorological stations as well as at two meteorological stations at the headwaters of the Urumqi River. The Urumqi glacier No. 1 hydrometeorological station was established in 1959 at the front of Urumqi glacier No. 1 for the purpose of measuring glacial runoff. The other two hydrometeorological stations, Zongkong and Empty Cirque, were constructed in 1981 to measure the runoff from all the seven Urumqi glaciers and from the non-glacial alpine permafrost zone, respectively. 0. 0.
Ecology 0. 0.
Oceanography 0. 0.
Other 0. 0.

Last updated: 31 May 2017