A glimpse of world’s 3rd largest ice sheet -- Puruogangri glacier

By: Zhou Tianyu,
Updated: January 10, 2020
Puruogangri glacier. [Photo by Deng Jiansheng]
Puruogangri glacier, deep in the Qiangtang grassland in north Tibet’s Nagqu city, is the third largest ice sheet in the world, which was confirmed by a group of 50 scientists from China, America, Russia and Sweden in September 2000.The other two are in the Antarctic and the Arctic. 
Puruogangri glacier covers an area of 420 square kilometers at altitudes between 5,350 meters and 6,200 meter.
After decades of exploration, Chinese scientists have confirmed that Puruogangri is geographically volatile and a formation of the earliest orogeny on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
The glacier and its vicinity are still not accessible to tourists.“Volcanic activities are frequent and geothermal resources are rich there,” said He Rizheng, research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.
“Presumably, 2.4 billion years ago, the movement of Tethyan- Ancient Indian Ocean plate caused the uplift of ancient Kunlun Mountains and Hoh Xil in the early phase. The Asian plate was squeezed by the later separated Indian plate, which led to the rising of Kunlun Mountains and Hoh Xil to form land. In the next 160 million years, intense geological changes made the Puruogangri district become the most volcanically active region,”said He.
What worries people most is that the huge glacier is witnessing shrink age due to global warming. “The glacial areas of Qinghai-Tibet plateau and nearby regions have shrinked from 53,000 square kilometers to 45,000 square kilometers,” said Yao Tandong, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the first Chinese scientists to explore the Puruogangri glacier.