Climate Change, Glacier Retreat, and Water Availability in the Caucasus Region

  • M. Shahgedanova
  • W. Hagg
  • D. Hassell
  • C. R. Stokes
  • V. Popovnin
Part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security book series (NAPSC)

The paper discusses the observed and projected warming in the Caucasus region and its implications for glacier melt, water availability and potential hazards. A strong positive trend in summer air temperatures of 0.05°C year−1 is observed in the high-altitude areas (above 2000 m) providing for a strong glacier melt. A widespread glacier retreat has also been reported between 1985 and 2000, with an average rate of 8 m year−1. A warming of 5–7°C is projected for the summer months in the 2071–2100 period under the A2 emission group of scenarios, suggesting that enhanced glacier melt and a changing water balance can be expected.


Glaciers climate change climate modeling water resources Caucasus 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Armstrong, R., Raup, B., Khalsa, S.J.S., Barry, R., Kargel, J., Helm, C., and Kieffer, H., 2005: GLIMS glacier database. Boulder, CO: National Snow and Ice Data Center.Google Scholar
  2. Bergström, S., 1976: Development and Application of a Conceptual Runoff Model for Scandinavian Catchments. Department of Water Resources Engineering, University of Lund, Bulletin A/52, 134 S.Google Scholar
  3. Braithwaite, R.J., Zhang Y. and Raper S.C.B., 2003: Temperature sensitivity of the mass balance of mountain glaciers and ice caps as a climatological characteristic. Zeit. Gletscherkun. Glazialgeol., 38: 35–61.Google Scholar
  4. Braun, L.N. & Renner, C.B., 1992: Applications of a conceptual runoff model in different physiographic regions of Switzerland. Hydrol. Sci. J., 73/3: 217–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Braun, L. N., Weber, M. & Schulz, M., 2000: Consequences of climate change for runoff from Alpine regions. Ann. Glaciol., 31: 19–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chernomorets, S., Petrakov, D., Tutubalina, O., Seinova, I. and Krylenko, I., 2007: Outburst of a glacial lake on the north-eastern slope of the Elbrus on 11 August 2006. Data Glaciologic. Res., 102: 219–224. In Russian.Google Scholar
  7. Frei, C., Christensen, J.H., Deque, M., Jacob, D., Jones, R.G., and Vidale P.L., 2003: Daily precipitation rates in regional climate models: Evaluation and intercomparison for the European Alps, J. Geophys. Res., 18(D3): D4124, doi: 10.1029/2002JD002287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hagg, W., Braun, L.N., 2005: The influence of glacier retreat on water yield from high mountain areas: Comparison of Alps and Central Asia. In: De Jong, C., Ranzi, R., Collins, D. (eds.) Climate and Hydrology in Mountain Areas, ISBN: 978-0-470-85814-1. Wiley: Chichester, 263–275.Google Scholar
  9. Hagg, W., Braun, L.N., Weber, M., and Becht, M., 2006: Runoff modelling in glacierized Central Asian catchments for present-day and future climate. Nord. Hydrol., 37/2: 93–105.Google Scholar
  10. Hagg, W., Braun, L.N., Kuhn, M., and Nesgaard, T.I., 2007: Modelling of hydrological response to climate change in glacierized Central Asian catchments. J. Hydrol., 332: 40–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jones, R.G., Noguer, M., Hassell, D.C., Hudson, D., Wilson, S.S., Jenkins, G.J. and Mitchell, J.F.B., 2004: Generating high resolution climate change scenarios using PRECIS, Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK, 40pp.Google Scholar
  12. Kääb, A., Huggel, C., Fischer, L., Guex, S., Paul, F., Roer, I., Salzmann, N., Schlaefli, S., Schmutz, K., Schneider, D., Strozzi, T., and Weidmann, Y., 2005: Remote sensing of glacier- and permafrost-related hazards in high mountains: An overview. Nat. Haz. Earth Syst. Sci., 5: 527–554.Google Scholar
  13. Konz, M., Braun, L., Grabs, W., Shrestha, A. and Uhlenbrook, S., 2006: Runoff from Nepalese Headwater Catchments - Measurements and Modelling. IHP/HWRP-Berichte, Heft 4, Koblenz, ISSN 1614-1180, 160pp.Google Scholar
  14. Oerlemans, J., 2005: Extracting climate signal from 169 glacier records. Science, 308: 675–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rango, A., 1992: Worldwide testing of the snowmelt runoff model with applications for predicting the effects of climate change. Nord. Hydrol., 23: 155–172.Google Scholar
  16. Shahgedanova, M., Stokes, C.R., Gurney, S.D. and Popovnin, V.V., 2005: Interactions Between Mass Balance, Atmospheric Circulation and Recent Climate Change on the Djankuat Glacier, Caucasus Mountains, Russia. J. Geophys. Res., 110(D4): D04108, doi: 10.1029/2004JD005213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Shahgedanova, M., Popovnin, V., Aleynikov, A., Petrakov, D. and Stokes, C.R., 2007: Long-term Change, Inter-annual, and Intra-seasonal Variability in Climate and Glacier Mass Balance in the Central Greater Caucasus, Russia. Ann. Glaciol., 46: 355–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. SRES, 2001: IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios. IPCC. Geneva.Google Scholar
  19. Stokes, C.R., Gurney, S.D., Shahgedanova, M., Popovnin, V., 2006: Late-20th-century changes in glacier extent in the Caucasus Mountains, Russia/Georgia, J. Glaciol., 52: 99–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Stokes, C.R., Popovnin, V., A. Aleynikov, and Shahgedanova, M., 2007: Recent Glacier Retreat in the Caucasus Mountains, Russia, and Associated Changes in Supraglacial Debris Cover and Supra/proglacial Lake Development. Ann. Glaciol., 46: 196–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Volodicheva, N.A., 2002: The Caucasus. In: Shahgedanova, M. (Ed.), The Physical Geography of Northern Eurasia. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 284–313.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Shahgedanova
    • 1
  • W. Hagg
    • 2
  • D. Hassell
    • 3
  • C. R. Stokes
    • 4
  • V. Popovnin
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe University of ReadingWhiteknightsUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of Munich, MunichGermany
  3. 3.The Hadley CentreUK Met OfficeExeterUK
  4. 4.Department of GeographyThe University of DurhamDurhamUK
  5. 5.Faculty of GeographyMoscow State UniversityLeninskie GoryRussia

Personalised recommendations