November 10, 2013

Greater Azau Glacier, Mount Elbrus, Russia

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Greater Azau Glacier is on the south slopes of Mount Elbrus, Caucasus Mountains of Russia. The glacier is just west of the ski complex at Prielbrusye, that has lifts from Azau at 2300 m to Krugozor at 3000 m and Mir at 3500 m. This glacier like others on Mount Elbrus and in the Caucasus Mountains is retreating. Shahgedanova et al (2014)  of the glaciers on the mountain indicate a 5% loss in area from 1999-2012.

elbrus glaciers
2013 Landsat of Mount Elbrus and its glaciers, snowline is at 3700 m.

azau ge
2009 Google Earth image of Azau Glacier.

In 1998 the glacier descended to an elevation of 2650 m ending at the yellow arrow. The pink arrow indicates a knob adjacent to the 2013 terminus. The red arrows indicate the length of the connection of the slope glacier to the west of the main valley tongue of the Azau Glacier, it is 1 km. The orange arrows indicates a thin connection between two segments of the upper glacier on the western slopes above Azau Glacier. In 2001 the terminus has retreated a short distance from 1998. By 2013 the terminus has retreated 450 m to just beneath the knob at the pink arrow, 30 m per year. The terminus is now at 2850 meters. A close up view of the terminus in 2009 indicates that it is still just downvalley of the prominent knob. Only the lower 300 m of the glacier is uncrevassed, above this point active crevassing is widespread. The Krugozor Ski Station is also noted. The Azaubashi Glacier on the western slopes has separated at the orange arrow and the connection at the red arrows has been reduced to 500 meters from 1000 meters in 1998. Azau Glacier is retreating faster now than during the 1957-2000 period like the Irik Glacier to the east on Mount Elbrus. This likewise is the pattern of retreat observed elsewhere in the Caucasus at Gora BashkaraKirtisho Glacier and Lednik Karaugom Glacier. The glacier still has an extensive accumulation zone.  The western slope portion does not and is similar to the Dzhikiugankez Glacier in losing mass across nearly its entire surface.
azau glacier 1998
1998 Landsat image

azau glacier 2001
2001 Landsat Image

azau glacier 2013
2013 Landsat Image

azau terminus
2009 Google Earth Image