November 15, 2012

Yajun Peak Glacier Retreat, Afghanistan

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Glaciers of Afghanistan have received little detailed attention for obvious reasons, only satellite image analysis of selected areas has been completed Haritashiya et al (2009) and Shroder and Bishop (2010), both studies noting a significant retreat and downwasting. In this post glaciers in the remote area around Yajun Peak in the Hindu Kush 150 km northeast of Bagram Airbase and 75 km west of the Pakistan Border are examined. Landsat imagery from 1998 (1st image below), 2010 (2nd image below) and 2012 (3rd image below) are used in combination with 2008 Google Earth imager (Last image below). Changes in three glaciers on Yajun Peak (6024 m) are highlighted. The yellow arrows indicate the expansion of bare rock amid a glacier draining south from Yajun Peak. The expansion of the bare rock area from the terminus area in 1998 to 2012 is evident as is the expanded area of the ridge in the upper glacier noted by the yellow arrow in each image. The magenta arrows indicate the terminus of a glacier draining west from Yajun Peak that in 1998 did not have a lake at the terminus. In the 2008, 2010 and 2012 imagery a small lake has developed as the glacier has thinned and retreated. The third glacier flows northwest and terminates in 1998 at a green line that is a one kilometer long line between two specific topographic points in each image. The glacier has retreated from the green line by 2008 and the retreat is 125 meters by 2012. In the 2008 Google Earth image a purple arrow points out the upper basin of a fourth glacier that is no longer ice or even snow filled. This along with the expansion of the bedrock ridge near the top of the glacier with yellow arrows indicates that even the accumulation zone of these glaciers are not persistently snow covered. Glaciers that lack a persistent snowcover cannot survive (Pelto, 2010). To see the details just click on each image and an expanded version will appear.
In previous posts on glaciers in the region the Emend Watershed and Zemestan Glacier the retreat is similar.