Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-312
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-312

  08 Oct 2021

08 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Strong acceleration of glacier area loss in the Greater Caucasus over the past two decades

Levan G. Tielidze1,2, Gennady A. Nosenko3, Tatiana E. Khromova3, and Frank Paul4 Levan G. Tielidze et al.
  • 1Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, 6140, Wellington, New Zealand
  • 2School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, 6140, Wellington, New Zealand
  • 3Department of Glaciology, Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, 29 Staromonetniy Pereulok, 119017, Moscow, Russia
  • 4Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. An updated glacier inventory is important for understanding glacier behavior given the accelerating glacier retreat observed around the world. Here, we present data from new glacier inventory at two time periods (2000, 2020) covering the entire Greater Caucasus (Georgia, Russia, and Azerbaijan). Satellite imagery (Landsat, Sentinel, SPOT) was used to conduct a remote-sensing survey of glacier change. The 30 m resolution Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer Global Digital Elevation Model (ASTER GDEM; 17 November 2011) was used to determine aspect, slope and elevations, for all glaciers. Glacier margins were mapped manually and reveal that in 2000 the mountain range contained 2186 glaciers with a total glacier surface area of 1381.5 ± 58.2 km2. By 2020, glacier surface area had decreased to 1060.9 ± 33.6 km2. Of the 2223 glaciers, fourteen have an area > 10 km2 resulting the 221.9 km2 or 20.9 % of total glacier area in 2020. The Bezingi Glacier with an area of 39.4 ± 0.9 km2 was the largest glacier mapped in 2020 database. Our result represents a 23.2 ± 3.8 % (320.6 ± 45.9 km2) or −1.16 % yr−1 reduction in total glacier surface area over the last twenty years in the Greater Caucasus. Glaciers between 1.0 km2 and 5.0 km2 account for 478.1 km2 or 34.6 % in total area in 2000, while it account for 354.0 km2 or 33.4 % in total area in 2020. The rates of area shrinkage and mean elevation vary between the northern and southern and between the western, central, and eastern Greater Caucasus. Area shrinkage is significantly stronger in the eastern Greater Caucasus (−1.82 % yr−1), where most glaciers are very small. The observed increased summer temperatures and decreased winter precipitation along with increased Saharan dust deposition might be responsible for the predominantly negative mass balances of two glaciers with long-term measurements. Both glacier inventories are available from the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) database and can be used for future studies.

Levan G. Tielidze et al.

Status: open (until 03 Dec 2021)

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Levan G. Tielidze et al.

Levan G. Tielidze et al.

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Short summary
The new datasets from the Caucasus Mountains show the accelerated glacier area loss over the last two decades (2000–2020). This new glacier inventory will improve our understanding of climate change impacts at a regional scale and support related modeling studies by providing high-quality validation data.