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

  • Brandon S. Krumwiede
  • Ulrich Kamp
  • Gregory J. Leonard
  • Jeffrey S. Kargel
  • Avirmed Dashtseren
  • Michael Walther
Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


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.


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This project was made possible through the generosity of the University of Montana and the American Center for Mongolian Studies. Ulrich Kamp thanks the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany, for awarding a research fellowship and the faculty of the Institute for Space Sciences at Freie Universitat Berlin for their hospitality. We thank the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) program for providing ASTER imagery free of charge; and Jeffrey Olsenholler, University of Nebraska-Omaha, for ASTER DEM generation. ASTER data courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/Japan Space Systems, the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team, and the GLIMS project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon S. Krumwiede
    • 1
  • Ulrich Kamp
    • 1
  • Gregory J. Leonard
    • 2
  • Jeffrey S. Kargel
    • 3
    • 4
  • Avirmed Dashtseren
    • 5
  • Michael Walther
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe University of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Hydrology and Water ResourcesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, College of Science, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.National Snow and Ice Data CenterUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  5. 5.Geographical InstituteMongolian Academy of SciencesUlaanbaatarMongolia
  6. 6.MOLARE Research Center for Climate and Landscape StudiesNational University of MongoliaUlaanbaatarMongolia

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