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The Kolka-Karmadon rock/ice slide of 20 September 2002: an extraordinary event of historical dimensions in North Ossetia, Russian Caucasus

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On 20 September 2002, an enormous rock/ice slide and subsequent mud-flow occurred on the northern slope of the Kazbek massif, Northern Ossetia, Russian Caucasus. It started on the north-northeast wall of Dzhimarai-Khokh (4780 m a.s.l.) and seriously affected the valley of Genaldon/Karmadon. Immediate governmental actions, available scientific information, first reconstructions, hazard assessments and monitoring activities as well as initial expert judgments/recommendations are documented in order to enable more detailed analyses and modelling of the event by the wider scientific community. Among the most remarkable aspects related to this event are (1) the relation between the recent event and somewhat smaller but quite similar events that occurred earlier in historical times (1835, 1902), (2) the interactions between unstable local geological structures and complex geothermal and hydraulic conditions in the starting zone with permafrost, cold to polythermal hanging glaciers and volcanic effects (hot springs) in close contact with each other, (3) the erosion and incorporation of a debris-covered valley glacier largely enhancing the sliding volume of rocks, ice, firn, snow, water and probably air to a total of about 100 × 106 m3, and (4) the astonishingly high flow velocities (up to 300 km h−1) and enormous length of travel path (18 km plus 15 km of debris/mud-flow). This extraordinary case illustrates that large catastrophic events in high mountain regions typically involve a multitude of factors and require integrated consideration of complex chains of processes, a task which must be undertaken by qualified groups of experts.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-12-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.

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