The Gurbantonggut Desert, China, is an ideal site for study of sublimation from the snowpack because there are sparse vegetation and simple topography, and the wind speed is not large enough to blow snow into the atmosphere from the snowpack. Daily sublimation was measured by manual snow lysimeters at 8:00, and an automatic weather station was deployed at the top of a stout longitudinal dune chain at the southeastern edge of the desert. It is shown that on a daily scale, there was an extremely significant no-intercept linear relationship between the measured sublimation and that calculated by the bulk aerodynamic method, although the former was only 83.8% of the latter. It is also demonstrated that −10°C and 2 m/s were the thresholds where the sublimation varied with the air temperature and the wind speed. When these two thresholds were exceeded, the sublimation accelerated. However, the air temperature and the wind speed at 2 m above the ground averaged −17.2°C and 1.3 m/s, respectively, and the percentages of the time when the air temperature was below −10 °C and the wind speed was below 2 m/s were 76.9% and 85.1%, respectively. As a result, the rate of sublimation was quite low most of the time, and the thin snowpack remained in a quasi-static state until the melt stage started. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.