January 8, 2012

Dzhungharia Alatau, Kazakhstan Glacier Retreat

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Dzhungharia Alatau range of Kazakhstan is host to over 500 square kilometers of glacier ice. This amount of glacier ice declined by 1% per year from 1956 to 1990, (Severskiy, 2009: 103). This reduction in glacier area parellels that of changes in the Zailiyskiy and Kungey Alatau further south in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (Bolch, 2006). The Aksu River flows north from the Dzhungharia Alatau into Lake Balkhash. This post focuses on several glaciers in the Aksu River Basin, Eskeldi District, Almaty Province, Kazakhstan. A 2004 Google Earth image highlights the terminus position of several glaciers (A-E) that end in small lakes that are expanding as the glaciers retreat. It is also evident in this image that the snowcovered extent is low. For a glacier to be in equilibrium 55-65% of the glacier needs to be snowcovered at the end of the melt season. In this case the percentage is below 30%. The lakes at point A and C have expanded, and the glacier at point E is no longer in contact with the glacier, in the 2009 Geoeye imagery. The 2009 imagery is after a summer snow storm, that blanketed the glaciers with a thin snowcover. . The amount of retreat of for the 2004-2009 period is close to 140 meters at Point A, 100 meters at Point C and E. A closeup view of the glacier ending at Point A indicates the terminus position green arrow and the outcrops of rock in upper glacier that indicate thinning of the accumulation zone. A glacier with a thinning accumulation zone will not survive (Pelto, 2010). The second image is of the glacier that ends at point C and D and indicates the lack of snowcover on the small glaciers. . Some on the ground photographs of the glaciers in the region from Tsvetik