Recent evolution of glaciers in Western Asia in response to global warming: the case study of Mount Ararat, Turkey

  • V. Baldasso
  • A. Soncini
  • R. S. Azzoni
  • G. Diolaiuti
  • C. Smiraglia
  • D. Bocchiola
Original Paper


We here investigated the recent (1976–2014) evolution of the Ararat mountain glaciers, paradigmatic of the evolution of ice bodies in Western Asia and the Caucasus. We gathered ice cover maps, including debris cover from different sources, to depict glaciers’ extension, and its variation under recent climate patterns. We then gathered data of (daily/monthly) weather variables (temperature, precipitation, snow cover depth) from two local stations managed by Turkish State Meteorological Service, which we subsequently analyzed to assess the presence of significant trends. We used the recently developed, weather-driven glaciological model Poly-Ice, able to mimic distributed ice and snow melt, mass budget, and gravity-driven ice flow of glaciers, to reproduce recent evolution of the Ararat ice bodies. We found a measurable decrease of the area (− 2.38 km2, − 30% of the initial area, − 0.06 km2 year−1) of the Ararat glaciers, including loss of ice under debris covered tongue (− 1.99 km2, − 70% of the initial area), driven by significantly increasing temperature especially in spring (+ 0.05 °C year−1). Using our Poly-Ice model, we could (i) mechanistically reproduce the response of the glaciers to the changing climate patterns, (ii) confirm faster downwasting ever since the 1990s under increasing temperature, and (iii) highlight decreased winter snow cover at thaw at the highest altitudes ever since the 1990s, further driving ice melt. Such physically based tool will further allow to project forward the dynamics of these glaciers under future climate. Our results are fully consistent with the present know how of glaciers’ retreat from Europe to Caucasus, and Central and Southern Asia, and contribute to the ongoing discussion about retreating glaciers worldwide.


Ararat glacier Climate change Trend assessment Glacier modeling 



The results here presented partly rely on findings from the 2014 ARARAT Expedition, organized by the Central Scientific Committee of the Italian Alpine Club (CSC-CAI). Researchers from the University of Milano, University of Milano-Bicocca, Politecnico di Milano, University of Florence, University of Pisa, personnel from the Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA-Lombardia, Centro Nivometeorologico Bormio), and from the Medical Commission of the Italian Alpine Club who were part to the expedition. RSA and DB took part in the expedition. The authors are grateful to all the people who participated in the field campaign, namely Carlo Alberto Garzonio, Andrea Franzetti, Riccardo Avanzinelli, Simone Tommasini, Raffaello Cioni, Eraldo Meraldi, Andrea Franzetti, Giulia Enrione, and Luigi Vanoni for medical support and the local guide Burhan Cevarun for help with field activities. The Pleiades and SPOT data were provided by the European Space Agency (ESA project: Geomorphological mapping and recent glacier evolution of the Mount Ararat volcanic complex through SPOT and PLEIADES images ID-32011).


  1. Abich G (1847) Geognostische Reise zum Ararat der und Verschuttung des Thales von Arguri im Jahre 1840. [Geological news of a journey to Ararat and particularly the collapse of the valley of Arguri in 1840]. Monatsber Verh Ges Erdkd Berlin, Neue Folge 4:28–62Google Scholar
  2. Aili T, Soncini A, Bianchi A, Diolaiuti G, Bocchiola D (2018) A method to study hydrology of high altitude catchments: the case study of the Mallero river, Italian Alps. Theoret Appl Climatol:1–22.
  3. Akçar N, Yavuz V, Yesilyurt S, Ivy-Ochs S, Reber R, Bayrakdar C, Schluchter C (2015) Synchronous last glacial maximum across the Anatolian peninsula, 2015. Geological Society, Special Publications.
  4. Allen RG, Trezza R, Tasumi M (2006) Analytical integrated functions for daily solar radiation on slopes. Agric For Meteorol 139(1–2):55–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Azzoni RS, Senese A, Zerboni A, Maugeri M, Smiraglia, Diolaiuti GA (2016) Estimating ice albedo from fine debris cover quantified by a semi-automatic method: the case study of Forni glacier, Italian alps. Cryosphere 10:665–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Azzoni RS, Zerboni A, Pelfini M, Diolaiuti GA (2017) Geomorphology of Mount Ararat/Ağri Daği (Ağri Daği Milli Parki, Eastern Anatolia, Turkey). Journal of Maps 13(2):182–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baumann S, Winkler S (2010) Parameterization of glacier inventory data from Jotunheimen/Norway in comparison to the European Alps and the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Erdkunde 64:2,155–2,177Google Scholar
  8. Berlitz C (1987) The lost ship of Noah. Putnam Press, New York 167 ppGoogle Scholar
  9. Blumenthal MM (1958) From Mount Ağrı to Kaçkar Mountains. Die Alpen 34:125–137Google Scholar
  10. Bocchiola D (2010) Regional estimation of snow water equivalent using kriging: a preliminary study within the Italian Alps. Physical Geography and Quaternary Dynamics GFDQ 33:3–14Google Scholar
  11. Bocchiola D (2014) Long term (1921-2011) changes of Alpine catchments regime in Northern Italy. Adv Water Resour 70:51–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bocchiola D, Diolaiuti G (2010) Evidence of climate change within the Adamello glacier of Italy. Theor Appl Climatol 100(3–4):351–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bocchiola D, Diolaiuti G (2013) Recent (1980-2009) evidence of climate change in the upper Karakoram, Pakistan. Theor Appl Climatol 113(3–4):611–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bocchiola D, Groppelli B (2010) Spatial estimation of Snow Water Equivalent at different dates within the Adamello Park of Italy. Cold Regions Science and Technology 63(3):97-109Google Scholar
  15. Bocchiola D, Rosso R (2007) The distribution of daily snow water equivalent in the Central Italian Alps. Adv Water Resour 30:135–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bocchiola D, Bianchi Janetti E, Gorni E, Marty C, Sovilla B (2008) Regional evaluation of three day snow depth frequency curves for Switzerland. NHESS 8:685–705Google Scholar
  17. Bocchiola D, Mihalcea C, Diolaiuti G, Mosconi B, Smiraglia C, Rosso R (2010) Flow prediction in high altitude ungauged catchments: a case study in the Italian Alps (Pantano Basin, Adamello Group). Adv Water Resour 33:1224–1234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bocchiola D, Diolaiuti GA, Soncini A, Mihalcea C, D’Agata C, Mayer C, Lambrecht A, Rosso R, Smiraglia C (2011) Prediction of future hydrological regimes in poorly gauged high altitude basins: the case study of the upper Indus, Pakistan. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 15:2059–2075CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Bocchiola D, Senese A, Mihalcea C, Mosconi B, D’Agata C, Smiraglia C, Diolaiuti G (2015) An ablation model for debris covered ice: the case study of Venerocolo glacier (Italian Alps). Physical Geography and Quaternary Dynamics GFDQ 38(2):13–128Google Scholar
  20. Bocchiola D, Soncini A, Senese A, Diolaiuti G (2018) Modelling hydrological components of the Rio Maipo of Chile, and their prospective evolution under climate change. Climate 6(3):1–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Brohan P, Kennedy JJ, Harris I, Tett SFB, Jones PD (2006) Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature changes: a new dataset from 1850. J Geophys Res 111:D12106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Çiner A (2004) Turkish glaciers and glacial deposits. In: Ehlers J, Gibbard PL (eds) Quaternary glaciations-extent and chronology. Part I: Europe. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 419–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Confortola G, Soncini A, Bocchiola D, (2013) Climate change will affect water resources in the Alps: a case study in Italy, Journal of Alpine Research. RGA/JAR 101(3)Google Scholar
  24. Cuffey KM, Paterson WSB (2010) The physics of glaciers, 4th Edition. Academic Press, Amsterdam, pp 704Google Scholar
  25. De Silva S, Lindsay JM (2015) Chapter 15—primary volcanic landforms. In: Sigurdsson H (ed) The encyclopedia of volcanoes, 2nd edn. Academic, Amsterdam, pp 273–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Diolaiuti G, D’Agata C, Meazza A, Zanutta A, Smiraglia C (2009) Recent (1975-2003) changes in the Miage debris-covered glacier tongue (Mont Blanc, Italy) from analysis of aerial photos and maps. Geogr Fis Din Quat 32:117–127Google Scholar
  27. Diolaiuti G, Bocchiola D, D’Agata C, Smiraglia C (2012a) Evidence of climate change impact upon glaciers’ recession within the Italian Alps: the case of Lombardy glaciers. Theor Appl Climatol 109(3–4):429–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Diolaiuti G, Bocchiola D, Vagliasindi M, D’Agata C, Smiraglia C (2012b) The 1975-2005 glacier changes in Aosta Valley (Italy) and the relations with climate evolution. Prog Phys Geogr 36(6):764–785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Garzonio CA (2015) La ricerca scientifica sul monte Ararat: La spedizione del Comitato scientifico centrale del CAI sul grande vulcano anatolico. [The scientific research on mounta Ararat: the CAI scientific committee expedition on the big Anatolian volcano] Montagna 360°. Marzo 2015:38–43Google Scholar
  30. Groppelli B, Soncini A, Bocchiola D, Rosso R, (2011) Evaluation of future hydrological cycle under climate change scenarios in a mesoscale Alpine watershed of Italy. NHESS 11:1769-1785Google Scholar
  31. Hughes PD (2014) Little ice age glaciers in the Mediterranean mountains. Méditerranée 122:63–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Imhof E (1956) The Ararat. Die Alpen 32:1–14Google Scholar
  33. Karakhanian AS, Djrbashian R, Trifonov VG, Philip H, Arakelian S, Avagian A (2002) Holocene-historical volcanism and active faults as natural risk factors for Armenia and adjacent countries. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 113:319–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Keskin M (2003) Magma generation by slab steepening and breakoff beneath a subduction-accretion complex: an alternative model for collision-related volcanism in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey. Geophys Res Lett 30:8046CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kirkbride M (2011) Debris-covered glaciers. In: Singh VP, Singh P, Haritashya UK (eds) Encyclopedia of snow, ice and glaciers. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 190–192Google Scholar
  36. Kumar L, Skidmore AK, Knowles E (1997) Modelling topographic variation in solar radiation in a GIS environment. Int J Geogr Inf Sci 11(5):475–497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kurter A (1991) Glaciers of Middle East and Africa-glaciers of Turkey. In RS Williams & JG Ferrigno (eds) Satellite image Atlas of the World. USGS Professional Paper, pp 1386–G1Google Scholar
  38. Migliavacca G, Confortola A, Soncini A, Diolaiuti G, Smiraglia C, Barcaza G, Bocchiola D (2015) Hydrology and potential climate changes in the Rio Maipo (Chile). Physical Geography and Quaternary Dynamics GFDQ 38(2):155–168Google Scholar
  39. Minora U, Senese A, Bocchiola D, Soncini A, D’agata C, Ambrosini R, Mayer C, Lambrecht A, Vuillermoz E, Smiraglia C, Diolaiuti G (2015a) A simple model to evaluate ice melt over the ablation area of glaciers in the Central Karakoram National Park, Pakistan. Ann Glaciol 56(70):202–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Minora U, Godone D, Lorenzini S, D’Agata C, Bocchiola D, Barcaza GS, Smiraglia C, Diolaiut GA (2015b) 2008-2011 snow cover area (SCA) variability over 18 watersheds of the Central Chile through MODIS data. Physical Geography and Quaternary Dynamics, GFDQ 38(2):169–174Google Scholar
  41. Minora U, Bocchiola D, D’Agata C, Maragno D, Mayer C, Lambrecht A, Diolaiuti GA (2016) Glacier area stability in the Central Karakoram National Park (Pakistan) in 2001–2010: the “Karakoram Anomaly” in the spotlight. Prog Phys Geogr 40:629–660. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Narama C, Kääb A, Murataly D, Abdrakhmatov K (2010) Spatial variability of recent glacier area changes in the Tien Shan Mountains, Central Asia, using Corona (~1970), Landsat (~2000), and ALOS (~2007) satellite data. Glob Planet Chang 71(1–2):42–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Notsu K, Fujitani T, Ui T, Matsuda J, Ercan T (1995) Geochemical features of collision-related volcanic rocks in central and eastern Anatolia, Turkey. Turkey Research 64:171–191Google Scholar
  44. Oerlemans J (2001). Glaciers and climate change. A. A. Balkema Publishers, Brookfield, pp 148 Google Scholar
  45. Ohlendorf C, Niessenn F, Weissert H (1997) Glacial varve thickness and 127 years of instrumental climate data: a comparison. Clim Chang 36:391–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Osborn TJ (2004) Simulating the Winter North Atlantic Oscillation: the roles of internal variability and greenhouse gas forcing. Clim Dyn 22:605–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Parrot F (1859) Journey to Ararat. Harper and Brothers, NewYork 389 ppGoogle Scholar
  48. Salerno F, Thakuri S, Smiraglia C, D’Agata C (2014) Tracing glacier changes since the 1960s on the south slope of Mt. Everest (central southern Himalaya) using optical satellite imagery. Cryosphere 8:1297–1315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sarikaya MA (2012) Recession of the ice cap on mount Ağrı (Ararat), Turkey, from 1976 to 2011 and its climatic significance. J Asian Earth Sci 46:190–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sarikaya MA, Çiner A (2014) Late quaternary glaciations in the eastern Mediterranean. In: Hughes PD, Woodward JC (eds) Quaternary glaciation in the Mediterranean mountains. Elsevier, Amsterdam, p 433Google Scholar
  51. Sarikaya MA, Tekeli AE (2014) Satellite inventory of glaciers in Turkey. In: Kargel JS, Leonard GJ, Bishop MP, Kääbm A, Raup BH (eds) Global land ice measurements from space. Springer, Berlin, pp 465–480Google Scholar
  52. Sarikaya MA, Çiner A, Zreda M (2011) Quaternary glaciations of Turkey. In: Ehlers J, Gibbard PL, Hughes PD (eds) Developments in quaternary science, vol 15. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 393–403Google Scholar
  53. Seiz G, Foppa N (2007) National climate observing system (GCOS Switzerland). Publication of the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss and ProClim, Geneva 92 ppGoogle Scholar
  54. Senese A, Maugeri M, Ferrari S, Confortola G, Soncini A, Bocchiola D, Diolaiuti G (2016) Modelling shortwave and longwave downward radiation and air temperature driving ablation at the Forni glacier (Stelvio National Park, Italy). Geogr Fis Din Quat 39(1):89–100Google Scholar
  55. Simkin T, Siebert L (1994) Volcanoes of the world, 2nd edn. Geoscience Press in Association with the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, TucsonGoogle Scholar
  56. Smiraglia C, Diolaiuti GA (2011) Epiglacial morphologies. In: Singh VP, Singh P, Haritash UK (eds) Encyclopedia of snow, ice and glaciers. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 262–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Smiraglia C, Azzoni RS, D’Agata C, Maragno D, Fugazza D, Diolaiuti GA (2015) The evolution of the Italian glaciers from the previous data base to the New Italian inventory. Preliminary considerations and results. Geogr Fis Din Quat 38(1):79–87Google Scholar
  58. Soncini A, Bocchiola D, Confortola G, Bianchi A, Rosso R, Mayer C, Lambrecht A, Palazzi E, Smiraglia C, Diolaiuti G (2015) Future hydrological regimes in the upper Indus basin: a case study from a high altitude glacierized catchment. J Hydrometeorol 16(1):306–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Soncini A, Bocchiola D, Confortola G, Minora U, Vuillermoz E, Salerno F, Viviano G, Shrestha D, Senese A, Smiraglia C, Diolaiuti G (2016) Future hydrological regimes and glacier cover in the Everest region: the case study of the Dudh Koshi basin. Sci Total Environ 565:1084–1101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Soncini A, Bocchiola D, Azzoni RS, Diolaiuti G (2017) A methodology for monitoring and modeling of high altitude Alpine catchments. Prog Phys Geogr 41(4):393–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stokes CR, Gurney SD, Shahgedanova M, Popovnin V (2006) Late-20th-century changes in glacier extent in the Caucasus Mountains, Russia/Georgia. J Glaciol 52(176):99–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Stokes CR, Popovnin V, Aleynikov A, Gurney SD, Shahgedanova M (2007) Recent glacier retreat in the Caucasus Mountains, Russia, and associated increase in supraglacial debris cover and supra−/proglacial lake development. Ann Glaciol 46:195–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vögtle T, Schilling K (1999) Digitizing maps. In: Bähr HP, Vögtle T (eds) GIS for environmental monitoring. Schweizerbart, Stuttgart, pp 201–216Google Scholar
  64. Wallinga J, van de Wal RSW (1998) Sensitivity of Rhonegletscher, Switzerland, to climate change: experiments with a one-dimensional flow line model. Journal of Glaciology 44(147): 383-393Google Scholar
  65. Williams RS, Ferrigno JG (1991) Glaciers of the Middle East and Africa. In: RS Williams & JG Ferrigno (eds) Satellite image atlas of the world. USGS professional paper 1386–GGoogle Scholar
  66. Wüthrich C, Begert M, Scherrer SC, Croci-Maspoli M, Appenzeller C, Weingartner R (2008) Analyses of newly digitised snow series over the last 100 years+in Switzerland. In: Abstract Volume 6, abstract no. 6.29, 6th Swiss Geoscience Meeting Lugano, 21–23, November 2008Google Scholar
  67. Yavaşli DD, Tucker CJ, Melocik KA (2015) Change in the glacier extent in Turkey during the Landsat era. Remote Sens Environ 163:32–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Yilmaz Y, Güner Y, Saroğlu F (1998) Geology of the quaternary volcanic centres of the East Anatolia. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 85:173–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Yue S, Wang CY (2002) Applicability of pre-whitening to eliminate the influence of serial correlation on the Mann-Kendall test. Water Resour Res 38(6):1068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zhang X, Vincent LA, Hogg WD, Niitsoo A (2000) Temperature and precipitation trends in Canada during the 20th century. Atmosphere-Ocean 38(3):395–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ICAPolitecnico di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science and PoliciesUniversità di MilanoMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesUniversità di MilanoMilanItaly
  4. 4.EVK2CNR Committee of ItalyBergamoItaly

Personalised recommendations