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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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Ararat glacier Climate change Trend assessment Glacier modeling 

Notes

Acknowledgments

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).

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© 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

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