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Global Land Ice Measurements from Space

Part of the series Springer Praxis Books pp 481-508

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Recent Glacier Changes in the Mongolian Altai Mountains: Case Studies from Munkh Khairkhan and Tavan Bogd

  • Brandon S. KrumwiedeAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, The University of Montana
  • , Ulrich KampAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, The University of Montana
  • , Gregory J. LeonardAffiliated withDepartment of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona Email author 
  • , Jeffrey S. KargelAffiliated withDepartment of Hydrology and Water Resources, College of Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of ArizonaNational Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado
  • , Avirmed DashtserenAffiliated withGeographical Institute, Mongolian Academy of Sciences
  • , Michael WaltherAffiliated withMOLARE Research Center for Climate and Landscape Studies, National University of Mongolia

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Abstract

The glaciers of the Mongolian Altai mountains play a vital role in the regional ecosystem and have created a unique physical landscape; however, there are limited data regarding the current state of the glaciers, the physical landscape, the climate, and the responses of glaciers to climate change in this region. The purpose of this study was to map recent glacier changes in the Munkh Khairkhan and Tavan Bogd ranges, to evaluate the methodologies and classifications employed, and to develop an understanding of how climate change influences glaciers and geomorphology within the region. Through the use of multitemporal ASTER and Landsat imagery and geomorphometric analysis of digital elevation models (DEMs), it was possible to monitor the glaciers and landscape dynamics. Supporting fieldwork in the Munkh Khairkhan range was conducted in the summer of 2009. The results from our analyses indicate that in the Munkh Khairkhan range there has been a decrease in glacier area of ~30 % and an increase in equilibrium line altitude (ELA) by ~22 m between 1990 and 2006; in the Tavan Bogd range, home of the highest altitudes in Mongolia, glacier extents decreased by 4.2 % between 1989 and 2009. This decrease in glacier area will impact landscape development, meltwater contribution to regional hydrology, and the people who depend on these glaciers to maintain their nomadic way of life.