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Annual Mass-balance Series of a Temperate Glacier in the Caucasus, Reconstructed from an Ice Core

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Identification of annual layers in a firn/ice core provides a possibility to reconstruct the mass-balance sequence for glaciers where no direct observations have been carried out. A number of cores is obtained from the boreholes drilled on the Djantugan firn plateau in the crest zone (3620 m a.s.l.) of the Main Caucasus Ridge. A geophysical radar survey shows ice thickness here being equal to 212 m, close to the maximum value within the plateau (235 m). The deepest layer achieved, c.93 m below the surface, is dated back to 1937. Annual layers are identified by visual and textural petrographic analysis in situ. Geochemical and isotope methods are also applied. Ambiguities in discerning annual boundaries due to epigenetic firn/ice homogenization can be eliminated by means of complex methods. Since the probability of complete melting of an annual layer is estimated as negligible, the reconstructed continuous mass-balance time series, after inserting rheological and inclinometrical amendments, describe the character of glacier evolution. It is corroborated with indirect calculation using data from the nearest weather station and with mass-balance series of the neighbouring Djankuat Glacier, one of 10 reference glaciers in the world. Located south of the meganticlinorium axis, the boring site is characterized by glacier budget improvement during the last decades similar to the northern slope – less rapidly until the 1980s and more rapidly since.

Keywords: Mass-balance measurements; glacier maps; hydropower production; map comparisons

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Geographical Faculty, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

Publication date: December 1, 1999


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