Chinese Geographical Science ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (1): 61-73.doi: 10.1007/s11769-018-0932-z

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An Estimation of Ground Ice Volumes in Permafrost Layers in North-eastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China

WANG Shengting1,2, SHENG Yu1, LI Jing1, WU Jichun1, CAO Wei1, MA Shuai1,2   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environmental and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China;
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2017-03-27 Revised:2017-07-11 Online:2018-02-27 Published:2018-01-04
  • Contact: SHENG Yu
  • Supported by:

    Under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Key Research Program (No. KZZD-EW-13), National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 91647103)


The ground ice content in permafrost serves as one of the dominant properties of permafrost for the study of global climate change, ecology, hydrology and engineering construction in cold regions. This paper initially attempts to assess the ground ice volume in permafrost layers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau by considering landform types, the corresponding lithological composition, and the measured water content in various regions. An approximation demonstrating the existence of many similarities in lithological composition and water content within a unified landform was established during the calculations. Considerable knowledge of the case study area, here called the Source Area of the Yellow (Huanghe) River (SAYR) in the northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, has been accumulated related to permafrost and fresh water resources during the past 40 years. Considering the permafrost distribution, extent, spatial distribution of landform types, the ground ice volume at the depths of 3.0-10.0 m below the ground surface was estimated based on the data of 101 boreholes from field observations and geological surveys in different types of landforms in the permafrost region of the SAYR. The total ground ice volume in permafrost layers at the depths of 3.0-10.0 m was approximately (51.68 ±18.81) km3, and the ground ice volume per unit volume was (0.31 ±0.11) m3/m3. In the horizontal direction, the ground ice content was higher in the landforms of lacustrine-marshland plains and alluvial-lacustrine plains, and the lower ground ice content was distributed in the erosional platforms and alluvial-proluvial plains. In the vertical direction, the volume of ground ice was relatively high in the top layers (especially near the permafrost table) and at the depths of 7.0-8.0 m. This calculation method will be used in the other areas when the necessary information is available, including landform type, borehole data, and measured water content.

Key words: ground ice volume, permafrost, source area of the Yellow River, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau