Main content area

Estimation and analysis of the surface velocity field of mountain glaciers in Muztag Ata using satellite SAR data

Zhou, Jianmin, Li, Zhen, Guo, Wanqin
Environmental earth sciences 2014 v.71 no.8 pp. 3581-3592
glaciers, monsoon season, topography, China
Muztag Ata is a mountain known as the “Father of glaciers” in the west of China. However, its glacier flow pattern has never been studied. In this paper, the velocity of mountain glaciers on Muztag Ata is mapped by two methods (InSAR and offset-tacking) using SAR data. This map provides a detailed view of the features of glacier motion on Muztag Ata. A special effort was also made to assess the accuracy of the glacier velocity estimates. To ensure the accuracy of the derived results, the validation of the results was conducted over two glaciers (Saliymek Glacier and Kuksay Glacier). The two methods yielded similar results that agree well with each other. The patterns of glacier velocity on Muztag Ata suggest that mountain topography, westerly winds and the monsoon have a strong influence. Our results show that motion of glaciers in the southern and western regions of Muztag Ata is faster than that in the northern and eastern regions. Eleven glaciers were identified, along which glacier velocities exhibited distinctive behavior in terms of the spatial variability of the glacier motion. The occurrence of the local flow maxima and minima at consistent locations over different parts of different glaciers suggests that the subglacial topography, glacier size and glacier orientation affect the overall flow patterns. The velocities are very low in the surface debris cover of some glaciers, which suggests debris cover has an impact on glacier motion.