April 20, 2015
Dzhikiugankez Glacier (Frozen Lake) is a large glacier on the northeast side of Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in the Caucasus Range. The primary portion of the glacier indicated in the map of the region does not extend to the upper mountain, the adjoining glacier extending to the submit is the Kynchyr Syrt Glacier. The glacier is 5 km long extending from 4000 m to 3200 m. Shahgedanova et al (2014) examined changes in Mount Elbrus glaciers from 1999-2012 and found a 5% area loss in this short period and accelerated retreat from the 1987-2000 period. As examination of Landsat images indicates Dzhikiugankez Glacier has the lowest percent of overall snowcover, as seen in the satellite image from August 2013 with the transient snow line shown in purple. The amount of blue ice is apparent on Dzhikiugankez Glacier (D). The main changes in this glacier are not at the terminus, but along the lateral margins, indicating substantial vertical and lateral thinning. Here we examine Landsat imagery from 1985 to 2013 to identify changes. In each image the red arrow indicates bedrock on the western margin, the yellow arrow bedrock on the eastern margin, Point A an area of glacier ice extending to the upper eastern margin, the purple arrow a medial moraine exposed by retreat and the green arrow the 1985 terminus of the glacier.
In 1985 the glacier connects beneath the subsidiary rock peak at the red arrow, a tongue of ice extends on the east side of the rock rib at the yellow arrow, Point A. The transient snow line is at 3550 m and less than 30% of the glacier is snowcovered. The medial moraine at the purple arrow is just beyond the glacier terminus. In 1999 the subsidiary peak is still surrounded by ice and the tongue of ice at Point A though smaller is still evident. The snowline is quite high extending to 3750 m, leaving only 10-15% of the glacier snowcovered. In 2001 the main terminus has retreated from the green arrow. A strip of rock extends up to the red arrow. The snowline is at 3500 m, with a month of melting left. In 2013 a wide zone of bare rock extends up to the subsidiary peak at the red arrow. The medial moraine, purple arrow is exposed all the way to its origin near the red arrow. In 2013 the tongue of ice at Point A, is gone. This glacier is retreating faster on its lateral margins as at the terminus, a 20% reduction between red and yellow arrows from 1985 to 2013. The snowline is at 3600 m, with several weeks of the melt season left. The key problem for the Dzhikiugankez Glacier is that there is an insufficient persistent accumulation zone. Pelto (2010) noted that a glacier cannot survive without a persistent and consistent accumulation zone, which Dzhikiugankez Glacier lacks despite being on the flanks of Mount Elbrus. Retreat of this glacier is similar to Azau Glacier, particularly the west slope of this glacier, and Irik Glacier. Unlike these glaciers it cannot survive current climate. The glacier is large and the glacier will not disappear quickly. Shahgedanova et al (2014) note the expansion of bare rock areas adjacent to glaciers on the south side of Mount Elbrus including Azau and Garabashi.