Glacier variations in the trans alai massif and the lake karakul catchment (Northeastern Pamir) measured from space

Nicolai Holzer*, Tim Golletz, Manfred Buchroithner, Tobias Bolch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Citations (Scopus)


Glacier area and length changes were measured in the central Trans Alai of the northeastern Pamir, including the entire catchment of Lake Karakul. Annual shrinkage determined from Landsat 7 ETM+ imagery accounted for -0.8 ± 0.4% a-1, corresponding to -8.8 ± 4.8% from 1455 ± 51 km2 in 2000 to 1327 ± 48 km2 in 2011. Several glaciers could be mapped back to 1973 based on a KH-9 Hexagon reconnaissance image. Measured glacier extents of 550 ± 10 km2 in 1973, 540 ± 9 km2 in 2000, and 521 ± 9 km2 in 2011 indicate accelerated shrinkage for the last decade in the Trans Alai. Glaciers retreated on average by -4.3 ± 0.5 m a-1 before 2000 and subsequently advanced by +6.1 ± 1.0 m a-1 until 2011. Geodetic mass balances of four selected glaciers were determined from a Digital Elevation Model extracted from a 2010 ALOS-PRISM tri-stereo image and the February 2000 SRTM-3 elevation dataset (1999). Its difference image reveals highly variable glacier elevation changes. While three glaciers showed probably a minor loss (-0.16 ± 0.68 m w.e. a-1 to -0.06 ± 0.68 m w.e. a-1), a more pronounced mass loss was observed for Uisuu Glacier (-0.50 ± 0.68 m w.e. a-1). This study reveals significant glacier variations and numerous indications of surges in the Trans Alai, a well-known phenomenon in the Pamir.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClimate Change, Glacier Response, and Vegetation Dynamics in the Himalaya
Subtitle of host publicationContributions Toward Future Earth Initiatives
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783319289779
ISBN (Print)9783319289755
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Geodetic mass balance
  • Glacier variations
  • KH-9 hexagon
  • Northeastern pamir
  • Trans alai


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