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Mergili, M., Kopf, C., Müllebner, B. and Schneider, J.F., 2012. Changes of the cryosphere and related geohazards in the high‐mountain areas of Tajikistan and Austria: a comparison. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 93, 79–96. doi:10.1111/j.1468‐0459.2011.00450.x

This paper quantifies recent glacier changes and possible future permafrost retreat in the Austrian Alps and the Pamir and Alai Mountains of Tajikistan (Central Asia), two mountainous areas with striking differences in climate and hypsometry, but also in economy and research history. The aim of the comparative study is to improve the understanding of regional differences as a baseline for further research and for a differentiated evaluation of possible socio‐economic implications. Besides a review of the available literature, multi‐temporal remote sensing of glaciers of selected areas as well as additional helicopter and field surveys were conducted. The Tajik glaciers displayed a differentiated behaviour during the investigation period 1968–2009, with a strong trend to retreat – at least since 2002. More than 100 pro‐ and supraglacial lakes have been forming or growing in the southwestern Pamir. Destructive outburst floods of such lakes have occurred there in the recent past. Almost all Austrian glaciers are in an advanced stage of retreat, a trend which continues at enhanced rates. Comparatively few glacial lakes exist in the direct forefields of the glaciers. Potential permafrost distribution maps for the present and the future were produced for Tajikistan and Austria by adapting an empirical model developed in Switzerland. In absolute terms, the highest loss was predicted for the Pamir. The expected relative loss in the same area is moderate compared to the rest of Tajikistan and particularly to Austria, where the model predicted the disappearance of more than 90% of the potential permafrost until the end of the twenty‐first century.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Applied Geology, BOKU University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Vienna, Austria 2: Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering, BOKU University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Vienna, Austria 3: riocom – Consulting Engineers for Water Management and Environmental Engineering, Vienna, Austria

Publication date: 01 March 2012

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