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Climate changes: severe volume loss for the south Cuucasian ‘s glaciers


Trees instead of ice. Tight woods grew up in place of immense glaciers, thus clearly remarking the difference between past and present. Important glaciers’ surface and length contractions occurred, especially in the last 50 years, which are only revealed by accurate photographic and scientific analysis. This is what emerges from the images and from the scientific reports elaborated after the second expedition of the project “On the Trails of the Glaciers”, which took place last summer in the Svanezia region (Georgia) of the Caucasian mountains.

“On the Trails of the Glaciers” is a project that gets together a team of scientist, photographers and alpinists. The project, by covers the most significant mountains of the Planet through 5 expeditions, studies the effects of the climate changes combining photographic comparison and on field scientific research. Every expedition in fact will compare hystorical images with current ones shot from the same geographic spot, and will carry out on field and laboratory glaciological analysis. The pictures taken last summer in Caucasus by Fabiano Ventura, photographer and creator of the project, are validated by the geomorphological surveys carried out by the researchers and by the analysis of the data, which have been presented for the first time at the 16th Alpine Glaciology Meeting, one of the most prestigious European glaciological meeting (Zurigo, February 2-3, 2012).
Based on the report of Riccardo Scotti, glaciologist at the Department of Geological and Geotechnological Science at the University of Milan – Biocca, “since the Little Ice Age (LIA), ended in this region around 1810, to date, the Tviberi Glacier, the biggest Caucasian glacier until 1965, showed the most impressive contraction (-16,4 km, - 34,9% of its original surface) and linear retraction (-3,98 km, 42% of its main length). The Chaalati Glacier, the one that reaches the lowest altitude of the south Caucasian mountain (1861 m), showed a contraction of 4,4 km (- 27,1%) and a retraction of the fronthead of 2,16 km. The Adishi Glacier, the smallest but highest one out of the three glaciers, showed the smallest contraction (- 1,5 km, - 13%) and a linear retraction of 1,15 km”.
The analysis of the high-resolution photographic comparisons made during the expedition by Fabiano Ventura, allowed to observe how the 3 studied glaciers are indeed representative of all the other glaciers in the area. Twenty pictures were taken from the same angle and during the same time of the year of those one obtained by the first photographers and explorers more than 120 years ago (Vittorio Sella and Mor von Dechy).

One of the most interesting results of this study is the acceleration of the glacier surface’s reduction during the last time frame (1965-2011), compared to the previous intervals. In the last decades in fact, the Tviberi Glacier lost a surface 3,2 times bigger than during the previous interval, and almost 50 times faster than during the XIX century. Same behavior is observed in the other 2 studied glaciers.


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