Roundup: Catastrophe on Mt. Ararat, Albedo Effect in the Alps, and Meltwater in Greenland

Reappraising the 1840 Ahora Gorge Catastrophe

Mt. Ararat is seen from the northeast in 2009. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

From Geomorphology: “Ahora Gorge is a 400 m deep canyon located along the North Eastern flank of Mt. Ararat (Turkey), a compound volcanic complex covered by an ice cap. In the past, several diarists and scientific authors reported a calamitous event on July 2, 1840, when a landslide triggered by a volcanic eruption and/or an earthquake obliterated several villages located at the foot of the volcano. The reasons and effects of this Ahora Gorge Catastrophe (AGC) event have been obscure and ambiguous. To reappraise the 1840 catastrophe and the geomorphic evolution of the Ahora Gorge, we used high-resolution satellite images, remote sensing thermal data supplemented by observations collected during two field surveys.”

Albedo Effect in the Swiss Alps

The Oberaar glacier is seen from Oberaar, Bern, Switzerland in 2010. (Source: Simo Räsänen/Wikimedia Commons)

From The Cryosphere: “Albedo feedback is an important driver of glacier melt over bare-ice surfaces. Light-absorbing impurities strongly enhance glacier melt rates but their abundance, composition and variations in space and time are subject to considerable uncertainties and ongoing scientific debates. In this study, we assess the temporal evolution of shortwave broadband albedo derived from 15 end-of-summer Landsat scenes for the bare-ice areas of 39 large glaciers in the western and southern Swiss Alps. […] Although a darkening of glacier ice was found to be present over only a limited region, we emphasize that due to the recent and projected growth of bare-ice areas and prolongation of the ablation season in the region, the albedo feedback will considerably enhance the rate of glacier mass loss in the Swiss Alps in the near future.”

Glacier Meltwater Impacts in Greenland

An iceberg floats in Franz Josef Fjord, Greenland (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

From Marine Ecology Progress Series: “Arctic benthic ecosystems are expected to experience strong modifications in the dynamics of primary producers and/or benthic-pelagic coupling under climate change. However, lack of knowledge about the influence of physical constraints (e.g. ice-melting associated gradients) on organic matter sources, quality, and transfers in systems such as fjords can impede predictions of the evolution of benthic-pelagic coupling in response to global warming. Here, sources and quality of particulate organic matter (POM) and sedimentary organic matter (SOM) were characterized along an inner-outer gradient in a High Arctic fjord (Young Sound, NE Greenland) exposed to extreme seasonal and physical constraints (ice-melting associated gradients). The influence of the seasonal variability of food sources on 2 dominant filter-feeding bivalves (Astarte moerchi and Mya truncata) was also investigated. Results revealed the critical impact of long sea ice/snow cover conditions prevailing in Young Sound corresponding to a period of extremely poor and degraded POM and SOM.”

Read More on GlacierHub: 

Rising Temperatures Threaten Biodiversity Along the Antarctic Peninsula

Mongolia’s Cashmere Goats Graze a Precarious Steppe

United Nations Steps for Building Functional Early Warning Systems

Photo Friday: Taurus Mountain Range and the Last of Turkey’s Glaciers

Almost half of Turkey is made up of mountainous terrain. The country was once home to several large glaciers, however over time, their areas of coverage has decreased tremendously.

The Taurus Mountain range, Toros Dağlari in Turkish, is located on the southern edge of Turkey. This great chain of mountains runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast, towards the borders of Syria, Iran, and Iraq. About two thirds of the country’s glaciers currently lie within this range, with some of the highest peaks reaching heights of between 10,000 and 12,000 feet above sea level (3,000 to 3,700 m).

A photo of the snow-capped Taurus mountains of Turkey, taken in 2006. (Source: Dan/Flickr)

Toros means ‘bull’ in Latin, and the origin of the mountain’s name is useful in perceiving past climate. According to World Atlas, the bull symbolizes Near Eastern storm gods in ancient Mesopotamia. The mountains are home to several storm-god temples, and they historically received heavy rainfall.

Snow and ice remain year-round on some of the highest peaks in the region. (Source: Zeynel Cebeci/Wikimedia Commons)

Turkey receives most of its precipitation in winter, and because of irregular topography, regions vary greatly in weather and climate. In recent decades however, Turkey has received less and less annual winter rainfall in the western region. This is where many of the country’s largest glaciers reside. Summer temperature also continue to rise with global warming. These might have been major contributing factors to glacier shrinkage. Turkey has also experienced significant drought periods in the last few years, with rainfall far below annual average levels.

Mt. Demirkazik is the highest peak in the Taurus mountain range, with a summit of 12,323ft (3,756m). (Source: Zeynel Cebeci/Wikimedia Commons)

Since the 1970s, over half of Turkey’s ice cover has vanished. According to a study published in Remote Sensing of Environment, in more than 40 years, the total glacial area fell from 25km2 in the 1970s, to 10.85km2in 2012-2013. Scientists attribute these changes to higher minimum summer temperatures. Five glaciers have disappeared, and the current glaciers have greatly declined.

Mount Ararat, one of the few remaining glaciers in Turkey, is pictured here with an Armenian monastery in the foreground. (Source: Andrew Behesnilian/Wikimedia Commons)

Today, glaciers in Turkey exist in the high peaks in south-eastern and central Taurus mountains, and the eastern Black Sea mountain range. 

Photo Friday: A Glacier from the Cradle of Civilization

At the convergence of modern-day Turkey, Armenia, and Iran sits Mount Ararat, which is actually two peaks. The higher of the pair, “Great Ararat,” sits more than five thousand meters above sea level, and is home to a glacier on its crown. Due to its visible presence in one of the longest-inhabited regions of the world, Mt. Ararat is the topic of countless myths, mentioned in a wealth of real history, and is an emblem of pride and identity for millions of different people. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the mountain is believed to be the site where Noah’s ark landed after the waters of the Flood receded, and the nearby Armenian highlands are often suggested as the location of the Garden of Eden.

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Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at