Photo Friday: The Shrinking Glaciers of the Altai Mountains

This week’s Photo Friday features the glaciers of East and Central Asia’s Altai Mountains.

The Potanin Glacier in Tavanbogd Natural Park, Mongolia. (Source: Flickr/smee)

The Altai Mountains are located in East and Central Asia and form natural borders in Kazakhstan, Russia, China, and Mongolia. The range extends approximately 1,200 miles and gradually merges with the Gobi Desert. Because of a dispersed population and limited infrastructure throughout the Altai Mountains, its glaciers remain little-known to the public, especially on the Mongolian side. The Altai Mountain glaciers are noteworthy, though, because they are some of the few that exist in a continental climate.

The Potanin Glacier is 19 kilometers long—the longest in Mongolian Altai Mountains. (Source:Flickr/smee)

A recent paper published in the journal Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography reveals details about glacier retreat in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia between 1990–2016. Authors Caleb G. Pan and Allen Pope estimate that a subset of 206 glaciers has decreased 43 percent at a rate of 6.4 ± 0.4 square kilometers per year during the study period. The highest rates of retreat occurred from 1990 to 2000 at 10.9 ± 0.8 square kilometers per year.

Sutai Uul in the Southern Altai disintegrates into several smaller glaciers from 1990-2016, a common trend throughout the region.

The retreat of the Mensu Glacier in the Russian Altai Mountains is similar to its neighbor Potanin Glacier in the Mongolian Altai. Mensu Glacier (Lednik Mensu) is at the base of Belukha Mountain, which is the tallest peak in the Russian Altai Mountains. According to glaciologist Mauri Pelto, the glacier retreated 600 meters from 1994 to 2016 and no longer reached a proglacial lake.

Mensu glacier in the Russian Altai Mountains. (Source:Flickr/Zabara Alexander)
A man is seen standing on the Mensu glacier. (Source:Flickr/Zabara Alexander)
Few crevasses are found on the Mensu Glacier. (Source:Flickr/Zabara Alexander)

Read More on GlacierHub:

New Glaciological Center in Kazakhstan to Tackle Glacier Retreat in the Region

Glacial Change in China’s Central Asia

Vulnerability of Mountain Societies in Central Asia

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