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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Climate Change and Glacier Dynamics in the Caucasus and the Mountains of Southern Siberia

A research project of the Department of Geography.

Background

It is widely acknowledged that glacier fluctuations are a reliable indicator of climate change. Recently, much research has focused on glaciers around the world, from small mountain glaciers near the equator to the vast polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. The emerging picture is that mountain glaciers around the world are undergoing retreat and that this is almost certainly due to rising global temperatures popularly termed 'global warming'. The recent decline in mountain glaciers is of importance for society because in many regions, they play a key role in delivering melt-water for economic, agricultural and domestic use. Of even greater concern, however, is the potential impact on sea level rise, given that more than 100 million people now live at an elevation within 1 metre of sea level. Worryingly, estimates suggest that the contribution of melting glaciers to sea level rise may be increasing.

Many studies have reported increased glacier loss from across the world and the potential impacts of projected climate change have been evaluated including the potential changes in water balance and hazards associated with enhanced glacial melt. Surprisingly absent from this list, are some of the extensive glaciated areas of the Former Soviet Union (FSU). Individual mass balance data exist for some areas but there is a lack of an up-to-date synthesis for the latter part of the twentieth century. More often than not mass balance observations are not supported by detailed meteorological and hydrological observations and detailed projections of future climate change are not available.

The recognition of these gaps in our knowledge of climate-glacier dynamics in the mountains of the FSU instigated this research, which is a multidisciplinary, international project funded by the EU INTAS programme and The Royal Society.

Djankuat Glacier, Caucasus Mountains.

Selected Publications

Shahgedanova, M., Popovnin, V., Aleynikov, A. and Stokes, C.R. (2011) Geodetic mass balance of Azarova glacier, Kodar mountains, eastern Siberia, and its links to observed and projected climatic change. Annals of Glaciology, 52 (58), 129-137.

Gurney, S.D., Popovnin, V.V., Shahgedanova, M. and Stokes, C.R. (2008) A glacier inventory for the Buordakh Massif, Cherskiy Range, Northeast Siberia, and evidence for recent glacier recession. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, 20, 81-88.

Stokes, C.R., Popovnin, V, Aleynikov, Gurney, S.D., Shahgedanova, M., (2007) Recent glacier retreat in the Caucasus Mts., Russia, and associated increase in supraglacial debris cover and supra/proglacial lake development. Annals of Glaciology, 46, 195-203.

Shahgedanova, M., Popovnin, V., Aleynikov, A., Petrakov, D. and Stokes, C.R. (2007) Long-term change, inter-annual, and intra-seasonal variability in climate and glacier mass balance in the Central Greater Caucasus, Russia. Annals of Glaciology, 46, 355-361.

Stokes, C.R., Gurney, S.D., Shahgedanova, M. and Popovnin, V. (2006) Late twentieth century changes in glacier extent in the Caucasus Mountains, Russia. Journal of Glaciology, 52 (176), 99-109.

Shahgedanova, M., Stokes, C.R., Gurney, S.D. and Popovnin, V. (2005) Interactions between mass balance, atmospheric circulation and recent climate change on the Djankuat glacier, Caucasus Mountains, Russia. Journal of Geophysical Research 110, D04108, doi: 10.1029/2004JD005213.

Staff

Project Leader

Further information

For further information, please contact Professor Chris Stokes.