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Volume 12, issue 1 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 81-94, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 10 Jan 2018

Research article | 10 Jan 2018

The Greater Caucasus Glacier Inventory (Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan)

Levan G. Tielidze1,3 and Roger D. Wheate2 Levan G. Tielidze and Roger D. Wheate
  • 1Department of Geomorphology, Vakhushti Bagrationi Institute of Geography, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, 6 Tamarashvili st., Tbilisi, 0177, Georgia
  • 2Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, BC, V2N 4Z9, Canada
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, Georgian National Academy of Sciences, 52 Rustaveli Ave., Tbilisi, 0108, Georgia

Abstract. There have been numerous studies of glaciers in the Greater Caucasus, but none that have generated a modern glacier database across the whole mountain range. Here, we present an updated and expanded glacier inventory at three time periods (1960, 1986, 2014) covering the entire Greater Caucasus. Large-scale topographic maps and satellite imagery (Corona, Landsat 5, Landsat 8 and ASTER) were used to conduct a remote-sensing survey of glacier change, and the 30m resolution Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer Global Digital Elevation Model (ASTER GDEM; 17 November 2011) was used to determine the aspect, slope and height distribution of glaciers. Glacier margins were mapped manually and reveal that in 1960 the mountains contained 2349 glaciers with a total glacier surface area of 1674.9±70.4km2. By 1986, glacier surface area had decreased to 1482.1±64.4km2 (2209 glaciers), and by 2014 to 1193.2±54.0km2 (2020 glaciers). This represents a 28.8±4.4% (481±21.2km2) or 0.53%yr−1 reduction in total glacier surface area between 1960 and 2014 and an increase in the rate of area loss since 1986 (0.69%yr−1) compared to 1960–1986 (0.44%yr−1). Glacier mean size decreased from 0.70km2 in 1960 to 0.66km2 in 1986 and to 0.57km2 in 2014. This new glacier inventory has been submitted to the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) database and can be used as a basis data set for future studies.

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Short summary
This is one of the first papers containing the Greater Caucasus glacier area and number change over the 1960–2014 period by individual river basins and countries. During the research we used old topographical maps and Corona imagery from the 1960s, and Landsat/ASTER imagery from 1986/2014. The separate sections and slopes have been revealed where there are the highest indices of the reduction in the area of the glaciers.
This is one of the first papers containing the Greater Caucasus glacier area and number change...