Glacier Expedition to the Tian-Shan Mountains

To investigate the dynamics of glaciers in the Tian-Shan mountains and how they are affected by climate change, researchers from Germany, Austria and Kyrgyzstan went on a three-week expedition in July 2010.


The expedition team included scientists and specialists from the Central Asian Institute of Applied Geosciences, the Kyrgyz Hydrometeorological Service, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, the Commission for Glaciology of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, and University of Innsbruck.

During their expedition, the researchers visited three glaciated areas in the Tian-Shan Mountains: the Ala Archa basin south of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, the Akshirak massif and Suek range in the upper Naryn basin.

At selected glaciers which are representative in size and exposition for the three mountain areas under investigation, the researchers installed ablation stakes to measure the average ice flow velocities and interannual changes in ice thickness. GPS sensors were used to determine the spatial extent of the glacier which is important ground truthing data to validate space-based information. In addition, the specialists measured the absolute ice thickness using a ground penetrating radar.

The obtained expedition results and the data, which will be received from the ablation measurements during the next years, will make it possible to quantify the variations in glacier mass balances and to classify them according to their height above sea level. Total melt rates will be used to estimate the contribution of ice melt to river runoff. These results will be extrapolated to neighboring glacier areas.