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Glaciers as Climate History Log


Investigation of Climate Change in the Tien Shan Highland Based on the Study of Quantitative and Qualitative Composition of Glacier Annual Layers

Tech Area / Field

  • OBS-NAT/Natural Resources and Earth Sciences/Other Basic Sciences

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Malakhov Yu I

Leading Institute
National Academy of Sciences of Kyrgyzstan / Institute of Geology, Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek

Supporting institutes

  • MIFI, Russia, Moscow\nVNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk


  • Ohio State University / Byrd Polar Research Center, USA, OH, Columbus\nNational Institute of Polar Research, Japan, Tokyo

Project summary

Glaciers keep information on atmospheric history from which past climate variability and responses on anthropogenic activity can be extracted. The objective of the project is to study the modern climate change on the basis of investigation of annual glacier layers and temperature profiles in the boreholes of Tien Shan glaciers. The secondary goal of the project is forecast of evolution of the glaciation, an estimation of water resource change and their pollution by heavy metals and radioactive elements.

The major principle of the study is based on a reduction of an annual glacier layer accumulated in dry and warm summer season and an increase of that in cold and wet periods. It allows for getting an information on precipitation and data on air temperature, i.e. we have data how heat and moisture in a high-mountainous zone were changed.

Precipitation on a glacier are due to air masses from different areas of the world. Therefore, it allows us to estimate a natural and anthropogeneous components in annual glacier layers by analizing the accumulated substances. The necessity of analysis of structure of pollutants is connected with determination of their genesis and estimation of duration of the pollution source like an eruption of a volcano, nuclear tests, a dust storm, any accidents etc. The quantitative analysis will allow us to understand a degree of mineralisation of glaciers and its influence on thawing. In annual glacier layer the contents of Cl, K, Na, Ca, SO4 and HCO3 and also such of the widely spread metals as Pb, Zn, Cu, Hg will be determined. Moreover, the spatial and temporary laws of distribution of radioactive elements formed in an atmosphere at the tests of the nuclear weapon or the failures similar to Chernobyl accident will be derived.

Thus, the problem of chemical and radioactive pollution of glaciers present not only the glaciological and climatological problem but also it is the ecological one. It is connected with set of problems: global warming of a climate, glacial degradation, change of water content of rivers, the drying of Aral lake and deterioration of an ecological situation in foothill and flat territories of Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

The field work will be organized on one of glaciers of Tyan Shan (area of Akshirak or peaks of Victory and Khantengri). The annual layers will be consecutive determined during the boring. Then it will be determined a quantitaty of dust, chemical and radioactive elements in each layer. The temperature profiles in the bore holes will be found out by the thermistors. Determination of air temperature in the past will be based on the solution of inverse problems that involve the measured temperature-depth profiles and distributions of various chemical substances as the input data.

The analysis of tests and their interpretation will be carried out in organizations-participants of the project. The following data are planned to obtain as a result of fulfilment of this project.

- An estimation of climate change in a high-mountainous zone of Tien Shan;

- An information on the pollutants of glaciers by particles, chemical and radioactive substances;

- Data on variations of temperature at the glacier surface in the past;

- A forecast of evolution of glaciation and an estimation of its consequences for change of water resources of rivers with significant ice component;

- An estimation and a forecast of pollution by heavy metals and radioactive elements in rivers situated near Tien Shan.

Comparison of the results on climate change in Tien Shan area with data on other glaciers will allow us to make conclusion about zonal variation of climate on the Earth. The problems that are to be solved in the project represent the scientific and practical interest for climatology, hydrology, ecology, and also for experts of water resources.


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