Mountain glaciers are a reliable and unequivocal indicator of climate change due to their sensitive response to changes in temperature and precipitation. The importance of mountain glaciers is best reflected in regions with limited precipitation, such as arid and semi-arid central Asia. High concentration of glaciers and meltwater from the Tian Shan contribute considerably to the freshwater resource in Xinjiang (China), Kyrgyzstan and nearby countries. Documenting glacier distribution and research on glacier changes can provide insights and scientific support for water management in central Asia. As the most recent glacial event, the Little Ice Age (LIA, approximately AD 1300–1850) signifies the cold periods prior to the warming trend in the twentieth century. Here we present an overview of topics recently studied on the modern and LIA glaciers in the Tian Shan of the central Asia. With data sets of the Glacier Inventory of China and the presumed LIA glacial extents, we applied statistical models in a case study of the eastern Tian Shan to examine the impact of local topographic and geometric factors on glacier area changes. The findings of glacier size and elevation as key local factors are representative and consistent with other studies.
Part of the book: Glacier Evolution in a Changing World