[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Observations show that glaciers around the world are in retreat and losing mass. Internationally coordinated for over a century, glacier monitoring activities provide an unprecedented dataset of glacier observations from ground, air and space. Glacier studies generally select specific parts of these datasets to obtain optimal assessments of the mass-balance data relating to the impact that glaciers exercise on global sea-level fluctuations or on regional runoff. In this study we provide an overview and analysis of the main observational datasets compiled by the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS). The dataset on glacier front variations (∼42 000 since 1600) delivers clear evidence that centennial glacier retreat is a global phenomenon. Intermittent readvance periods at regional and decadal scale are normally restricted to a subsample of glaciers and have not come close to achieving the maximum positions of the Little Ice Age (or Holocene). Glaciological and geodetic observations (∼5200 since 1850) show that the rates of early 21st-century mass loss are without precedent on a global scale, at least for the time period observed and probably also for recorded history, as indicated also in reconstructions from written and illustrated documents. This strong imbalance implies that glaciers in many regions will very likely suffer further ice loss, even if climate remains stable.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Glaciology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The recession of mountain glaciers around the world has been linked to anthropogenic climate change and small glaciers (e.g. < 2 km2) are thought to be particularly vulnerable, with reports of their disappearance from several regions. However, the response of small glaciers to climate change can be modulated by non-climatic factors such as topography and debris cover and there remain a number of regions where their recent change has evaded scrutiny. This paper presents results of the first multi-year remote sensing survey of glaciers in the Kodar Mountains, the only glaciers in SE Siberia, which we compare to previous glacier inventories from this continental setting that reported total glacier areas of 18.8 km2 in ca. 1963 (12.6 km2 of exposed ice) and 15.5 km2 in 1974 (12 km2 of exposed ice). Mapping their debris-covered termini is difficult but delineation of debris-free ice on Landsat imagery reveals 34 glaciers with a total area of 11.72 ± 0.72 km2 in 1995, followed by a reduction to 9.53 ± 0.29 km2 in 2001 and 7.01 ± 0.23 km2 in 2010. This represents a ~ 44% decrease in exposed glacier ice between ca. 1963 and 2010, but with 40% lost since 1995 and with individual glaciers losing as much as 93% of their exposed ice. Thus, although continental glaciers are generally thought to be less sensitive than their maritime counterparts, a recent acceleration in shrinkage of exposed ice has taken place and we note its coincidence with a strong summer warming trend in the region initiated at the start of the 1980s. Whilst smaller and shorter glaciers have, proportionally, tended to shrink more rapidly, we find no statistically significant relationship between shrinkage and elevation characteristics, aspect or solar radiation. This is probably due to the small sample size, limited elevation range, and topographic setting of the glaciers in deep valleys-heads. Furthermore, many of the glaciers possess debris-covered termini and it is likely that the ablation of buried ice is lagging the shrinkage of exposed ice, such that a growth in the proportion of debris cover is occurring, as observed elsewhere. If recent trends continue, we hypothesise that glaciers could evolve into a type of rock glacier within the next few decades, introducing additional complexity in their response and delaying their potential demise.
No preview · Article · Feb 2013 · Global and Planetary Change
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Kodar mountains in eastern Siberia accommodate 30 small, cold-based glaciers with a combined surface area previously estimated at 19 km2. Very little is known about these glaciers, which were first surveyed in the late 1950s. In this paper, we use terrestrial photogrammetry
to calculate changes in the surface area, elevation, volume and geodetic mass balance of Azarova glacier between 1979 and 2007 and relate these to meteorological data from nearby Chara weather station (1938–2007). The glacier surface area declined by 20 6.9% and the surface lowered by
an average of 20 1.8 m (mean thinning 0.71 m a–1), resulting in a strongly negative cumulative and average mass balance of –18 1.6 m w. e. and –640 60 mm w. e. a–1, respectively. The July–August air temperature increased at a rate of 0.0368
C a–1 between 1979 and 2007, and the 1980–2007 period was on average 18 C warmer than 1938–79. In comparison to the 1961–90 period, regional climate projections for the A2 and B2 CO2 emission scenarios developed using the PRECIS regional
climate model indicate that summer temperatures will increase by 2.6–4.7°C and 4.9–6.2°C, respectively, during the 2071–2100 period. The annual total of solid precipitation will increase by 20% under the B2 scenario but is projected to decline by 3% under the A2 scenario.
Azarova glacier exhibits high sensitivity to climatic warming due to its low elevation and exposure to comparatively high summer temperatures. Further summer warming and a decline in solid precipitation projected under the A2 scenario will force Azarova glacier to retreat further, but the
impact of an increase in solid precipitation projected under the B2 scenario is more uncertain and requires further investigation before a more conclusive prediction can be made.
No preview · Article · Jul 2011 · Annals of Glaciology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The glacier coverage in the Caucasus Mountains underwent considerable changes during the last decades. Besides a reduction in glacier area which in some areas is comparable to area changes in the European Alps, also the concentration of supra-glacial debris increased on many glaciers. Only a few glaciers in the Caucasus are monitored on a regular basis, while for most areas no field measurements are available on a continuous basis. In this study the regional differences between the well studied Adyl-su basin on the northern slope of the Caucasus is compared with a similar basin in the South (Zopkhito basin). Special focus is laid on the effect of supra-glacial debris cover on the melt conditions during the ablation season. Systematic differences can be shown for the distribution and temporal increase of the debris cover on the glaciers. While in the Adyl-su basin an extensive debris cover on the glacier tongues is common, only some low lying glacier tongues in the Zopkhito basin show considerable supra-glacial debris. Also the temporal increase in debris cover is decidedly stronger in the North. Field experiments show that the thermal resistance of the debris cover is somewhat higher than in other glacerised regions in the world. A simple ablation model which includes the effect of the debris cover on ice melt indicates considerably stronger melt rates in the northern basin, despite the much more widespread debris distribution. This is due to the different meteorological conditions with more frequent cloud cover and precipitation in the South. Still ablation is strongly influenced in both basins by the occurrence of supra-glacial debris cover, reducing the total amount of melt on the glacier by about 20%. Especially in the lower tongue areas this effect mitigates the area loss of the glaciers considerably.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the first week of September 2010, international experts on glacier monitoring convened in Zermatt, Switzerland, for two separate but related meetings. They discussed glacier data compiled over the past 150 years and how to improve this dataset to meet the challenges of the 21st century, pre- sented latest results from in situ and remotely sensed obser- vations, and came up with key tasks for the glacier moni- toring community for the coming decade.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A strong climatic warming is currently observed in the Caucasus mountains, which has profound impact on runoff generation in the glaciated Glavny (Main) Range and on water availability in the whole region. To assess future changes in the hydrological cycle, the output of a general circulation model was downscaled statistically. For the 21st century, a further warming by 4–7 °C and a slight precipitation increase is predicted. Measured and simulated meteorological variables were used as input into a runoff model to transfer climate signals into a hydrological response under both present and future climate forcings. Runoff scenarios for the mid and the end of the 21st century were generated for different steps of deglaciation. The results show a satisfactory model performance for periods with observed runoff. Future water availability strongly depends on the velocity of glacier retreat. In a first phase, a surplus of water will increase flood risk in hot years and after continuing glacier reduction, annual runoff will again approximate current values. However, the seasonal distribution of streamflow will change towards runoff increase in spring and lower flows in summer.
No preview · Article · Sep 2010 · Global and Planetary Change
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The paper discusses the observed and projected warming in the Caucasus region and its implications for glacier melt, water availability and potential hazards. A strong positive trend in summer air temperatures of 0.05 degrees C year(-1) is observed in the high-altitude areas (above 2000 m) providing for a strong glacier melt. A widespread glacier retreat has also been reported between 1985 and 2000, with an average rate of 8 m year(-1). A warming of 5-7 degrees C is projected for the Sum mer months in the 2071-2100 period under the A2 emission group of scenarios, Suggesting that enhanced glacier melt and a changing water balance can be expected.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2009 · NATO Security through Science Series C: Environmental Security
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The paper discusses the observed and projected warming in the Caucasus region and its implications for glacier melt and runoff. A strong positive trend in summer air temperatures of 0.05 degrees C a(-1) is observed in the high-altitude areas providing for a strong glacier melt and continuous decline in glacier mass balance. A warming of 4-7 degrees C and 3-5 degrees C is projected for the summer months in 2071-2100 under the A2 and B2 emission scenarios respectively, suggesting that enhanced glacier melt can be expected. The expected changes in winter precipitation will not compensate for the summer melt and glacier retreat is likely to continue. However, a projected small increase in both winter and summer precipitation combined with the enhanced glacier melt will result in increased summer runoff in the currently glaciated region of the Caucasus (independent of whether the region is glaciated at the end of the twenty-first century) by more than 50% compared with the baseline period.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2009 · NATO Security through Science Series C: Environmental Security
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Buordakh Massif, in the Cherskiy Range of northeast Siberia, contains mountains over 3000 in and, despite its and climate, numerous glaciers. This paper presents a glacier inventory for the region and documents some 80 glaciers, which range in size from 0.1 to 10.4 km(2) (total glacierized area is ca. 70 km(2)). The inventory is based on mapping derived from Landsat 7 ETM+ satellite imagery from August 2001, augmented with data from field investigations obtained at that time. The glaciers in this region are of the 'firn-less,' cold, continental type, and their mass balance relies heavily on the formation of superimposed ice. The most recent glacier maximum extents have also been delineated, and these are believed to date from the Little Ice Age (ca. A.D. 1550-1850). Glacier areal extent has reduced by some 14.8 km(2) (ca. 17%) since this most. recent maximum. Of the 80 glaciers catalogued, 49 have undergone a measurable retreat from their most recent maximum extent.
No preview · Article · Feb 2008 · Arctic Antarctic and Alpine Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper reports changes in supraglacial debris cover and supra-/proglacial lake development associated with recent glacier retreat (1985-2000) in the central Caucasus Mountains, Russia. Satellite imagery (Landsat TM and ETM+) was used to map the surface area and supraglacial debris cover on six neighbouring glaciers in the Adylsu valley through a process of manual digitizing on a false-colour composite of bands 5, 4, 3 (red, green, blue). The distribution and surface area of supraglacial and proglacial lakes was digitized for a larger area, which extended to the whole Landsat scene. We also compare our satellite interpretations to field observations in the Adylsu valley. Supraglacial debris cover ranges from < 5% to > 25% on individual glaciers, but glacier retreat between 1985 and 2000 resulted in a 3-6% increase in the proportion of each glacier covered by debris. The only exception to this trend was a very small glacier where debris cover did not change significantly and remote mapping proved more difficult. The increase in debris cover is characterized by a progressive upglacier migration, which we suggest is being driven by focused ablation (and therefore glacier thinning) at the up-glacier limit of the debris cover, resulting in the progressive exposure of englacial debris. Glacier retreat has also been accompanied by an increase in the number of proglacial and supraglacial lakes in our study area, from 16 in 1985 to 24 in 2000, representing a 57% increase in their cumulative surface area. These lakes appear to be impounded by relatively recently lateral and terminal moraines and by debris deposits on the surface of the glacier. The changes in glacier surface characteristics reported here are likely to exert a profound influence on glacier mass balance and their future response to climate change. They may also increase the likelihood of glacier-related hazards (lake outbursts, debris slides), and future monitoring is recommended.
No preview · Article · Oct 2007 · Annals of Glaciology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Long-term trends, interannual and intra-seasonal variability in the mass-balance record from Djankuat glacier, central Greater Caucasus, Russia, are related to local climate change, synoptic and large-scale anomalies in atmospheric circulation. A clear warming signal emerged in the central Greater Caucasus in the early 1990s, leading to a strong increase in ablation. In the absence of a compensating change in winter accumulation, the net mass balance of Djankuat has declined. The highest value of seasonal ablation on record was registered in the summer of 2000. At the beginning of the 21st century these trends reversed. Ablation was below average even in the summer of 2003, which was unusually warm in western Europe. Precipitation and winter accumulation were high, allowing for a partial recovery of net mass balance. The interannual variability in the components of mass balance is weakly related to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Scandinavian teleconnection patterns, but there is a clear link with the large-scale circulation anomalies represented by the Rossby pattern. Five synoptic categories have been identified for the ablation season of 2005, revealing a strong separation between components of radiation budget, air temperature and daily melt. Air temperature is the main control over melt. The highest values of daily ablation are related to the strongly positive NAO which forces high net radiation, and to the warm and moist advection from the Black Sea.
No preview · Article · Oct 2007 · Annals of Glaciology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Glaciers occupy an area of similar to 1600 km(2) in the Caucasus Mountains. There is widespread evidence of retreat since the Little Ice Age, but an up-to-date regional assessment of glacier change is lacking. In this paper, satellite imagery (Landsat Thematic Mapper and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus) is used to obtain the terminus position of 113 glaciers in the central Caucasus in 1985 and 2000, using a manual delineation process based on a false-colour composite (bands 5, 4, 3). Measurements reveal that 94% of the glaciers have retreated, 4% exhibited no overall change and 2% advanced. The mean retreat rate equates to similar to 8 m a(-1), and maximum retreat rates approach similar to 38 m a(-1). The largest (>10 km(2)) glaciers retreated twice as much (similar to 12 m a(-1)) as the smallest (<1 km(2)) glaciers (similar to 6 m a(-1)), and glaciers at lower elevations generally retreated greater distances. Supraglacial debris cover has increased in association with glacier retreat, and the surface area of bare ice has reduced by similar to 10% between 1985 and 2000. Results are compared to declassified Corona imagery from the 1960s and 1970s and detailed field measurements and mass-balance data for Djankuat glacier, central Caucasus. It is concluded that the decrease in glacier area appears to be primarily driven by increasing temperatures since the 1970s and especially since the mid-1990s. Continued retreat could lead to considerable changes in glacier runoff, with implications for regional water resources.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2006 · Journal of Glaciology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper reports recent changes in the mass balance record from the Djankuat Glacier, central greater Caucasus, Russia, and investigates possible relationships between the components of mass balance, local climate, and distant atmospheric forcing. The results clearly show that a strong warming signal has emerged in the central greater Caucasus, particularly since the 1993/1994 mass balance year, and this has led to a significant increase in the summer ablation of Djankuat. At the same time, there has been no compensating consistent increase in winter precipitation and accumulation leading to the strong net loss of mass and increase in glacier runoff. Interannual variability in ablation and accumulation is partly associated with certain major patterns of Northern Hemisphere climatic variability. The positive phase of the North Pacific (NP) teleconnection pattern forces negative geopotential height and temperature anomalies over the Caucasus in summer and results in reduced summer melt, such as in the early 1990s, when positive NP extremes resulted in a temporary decline in ablation rates. The positive phase of the NP is related to El Nino-Southern Oscillation, and it is possible that a teleconnection between the tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures and summer air temperatures in the Caucasus is bridged through the NP pattern. More recently, the NP pattern was predominantly negative, and this distant moderating forcing on summer ablation in the Caucasus was absent. Statistically significant correlations are observed between accumulation and the Scandinavian (SCA) teleconnection pattern. The frequent occurrence of the positive SCA phase at the beginning of accumulation season results in lower than average snowfall and reduced accumulation. The relationship between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Arctic Oscillation, and accumulation is weak, although positive precipitation anomalies in the winter months are associated with the negative phase of the NAO. A stronger positive correlation is observed between accumulation on Djankuat and geopotential height over the Bay of Biscay unrelated to the established modes of the Northern Hemisphere climatic variability. These results imply that the mass balance of Djankuat is sensitive to the natural variability in the climate system. Distant forcing, however, explains only 16% of the variance in the ablation record and cannot fully explain the recent increase in ablation and negative mass balance.
No preview · Article · Feb 2005 · Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres