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.