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The Retreat of Tien Shan Glaciers (Kyrgyzstan) Since the Little Ice Age Estimated from Aerial Photographs, Lichenometric and Historical Data

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The retreat of 293 glaciers in the Tien Shan Mountains (Kyrgyz Republic) from their maximum extent during the Little Ice Age (LIA) is estimated using aerial photographs from 1980 to 1985 and maps at a scale of 1:25000, constructed during period 1956–1990. Two indices of changes are used: the linear distance from the glacier terminus to its Little Ice Age moraine and the difference in absolute elevation of the terminus and the moraine. Historical information about the front positions of glaciers in the 1880s to the 1930s was used as an indirect control of remote sensing data. The age of moraines in key regions was estimated by lichenometry. On average, Tien Shan glaciers have retreated by 989 ± 540 m since the LIA maximum. Their front elevations (dh) rose by 151 ± 105 m. These changes are similar to changes observed in the Alps and western Norway, Pamir-Alay and Koryak plateau, but greater than in east Siberia over the same interval. Differences between four regions in Tien Shan (northern, western, inner, central) are generally small, though in the northern Tien Shan the glacier retreat and frontal rise are more prominent (1065 ± 479 m and 215 ± 140 m, respectively).
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Keywords: Little Ice Age; Tien Shan; climatic changes; glacier retreat; lichenometry; moraines

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia 2: National Snow and Ice Data Center, CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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