Climate Decade in Review Post 8: Kolka Glacier Catastrophe

September 20, 2002 - The Kolka Glacier in South Ossetia, Georgia, breaks off and buries the river valley below, killing more than 125 people.

The Kolka Glacier in South Ossetia is prone to surges that result in part breaking off and flowing down the valley below. This particular event was the most significant one recorded, with flows from the glacier reaching speeds of 100 mph and debris filling the valley to depths of more than 300 feet. (An excellent analysis of this event may be found here.)

The link to global warming cited in that article:
The calculations made to this purpose proved the importance of the climate factor as one of the causes for the premature surge of the Kolka Glacier. A 100-year series of annual average summer air temperatures on the glacier were retrieved from the closest meteorological
stations, and melting of the glacier was calculated. From 1995 to 2002, the summer air temperatures were higher than average, and for the 4 years preceding 2002 glacier melting exceeded the norm by 1.5–2 times. Thus, the firn field located high above the right side of the glacier was included in the runoff. Very intensive melting may have played a role in the formation of the firn and ice falls.

Global warming is having a significant affect on glaciers worldwide, with the vast majority of them currently in retreat. As these glaciers vanish, the affects on downstream populations who depend on them for water will be profound.
This is one in the series of "Climate Decade in Review" posts on this blog that began in January 2010. These posts present climate-change-related events that occurred during the 00's, the warmest decade in recorded history.

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