A 54-year record of changes at Chalaati and Zopkhito glaciers, Georgian Caucasus, observed from archival maps, satellite imagery, drone survey and ground-based investigation

  • Levan G. Tielidze Department of Geomorphology, Vakhushti Bagrationi Institute of Geography, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi, Georgia ; Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand ; School of Geography Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4646-5458
  • David Svanadze Department of Geography, Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Lela Gadrani Department of Geomorphology, Vakhushti Bagrationi Institute of Geography, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi, Georgia ; Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA
  • Lasha Asanidze Department of Geomorphology, Vakhushti Bagrationi Institute of Geography, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Roger D. Wheate Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC, Canada
  • Gordon S. Hamilton † Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA
Keywords: glacier change, glacier monitoring, supra-glacial debris cover, climate change, Greater Caucasus, drone survey, Chalaati Glacier, Zopkhito Glacier


Individual glacier changes are still poorly documented in the Georgian Caucasus. In this paper, the change of Chalaati and Zopkhito glaciers in Georgian Caucasus has been studied between 1960 and 2014. Glacier geometries are reconstructed from archival topographic maps, Corona and Landsat images, along with modern field surveys. For the first time in the Georgian Caucasus aerial photogrammetric survey of both glacier termini was performed (2014) using a drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, where high-resolution orthomosaics and digital elevation models were produced. We show that both glaciers have experienced area loss since 1960: 16.2±4.9 per cent for Chalaati Glacier and 14.6±5.1 per cent for Zopkhito Glacier with corresponding respective terminus retreat by ~675 m and ~720 m. These were accompanied by a rise in the equilibrium line altitudes of ~35 m and ~30 m, respectively. The glacier changes are a response to regional warming in surface air temperature over the last half century. We used a long-term temperature record from the town of Mestia and short-term meteorological observations at Chalaati and Zopkhito glaciers to estimate a longer-term air temperature record for both glaciers. This analysis suggests an increase in the duration of the melt season over the 54-year period, indicating the importance of summertime air temperature trends in controlling glacier loss in the Georgian Caucasus. We also observed supra-glacial debris cover increase for both glaciers over the last half century: from 6.16±6.9 per cent to 8.01±6.8 per cent for Chalaati Glacier and from 2.80±6.3 per cent to 8.53±5.7 per cent for Zopkhito Glacier.


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How to Cite
TielidzeL. G., SvanadzeD., GadraniL., AsanidzeL., WheateR. D., & Hamilton †G. S. (2020). A 54-year record of changes at Chalaati and Zopkhito glaciers, Georgian Caucasus, observed from archival maps, satellite imagery, drone survey and ground-based investigation. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin, 69(2), 175-189. https://doi.org/10.15201/hungeobull.69.2.6
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