Greater Azau Glacier is on the south slopes of Mount Elbrus, Caucasus Mountains of Russia. The glacier is just west of the ski complex at Prielbrusye, that has lifts from Azau at 2300 m to Krugozor at 3000 m and Mir at 3500 m. This glacier like others on Mount Elbrus and in the Caucasus Mountains is retreating. Russian Academy of Sciences remapping of the glaciers on the mountain indicate a 15% loss in area from 1911 to 1957 and 7% loss from 1957-2000.
2013 Landsat of Mount Elbrus and its glaciers.
2009 Google Earth image of Azau Glacier.
In 1998 the glacier descended to an elevation of 2650 m ending at the yellow arrow. The pink arrow indicates a knob adjacent to the 2013 terminus. The red arrows indicate the length of the connection of the slope glacier to the west of the main valley tongue of the Azau Glacier, it is 1 km. The orange arrows indicates a thin connection between two segments of the upper glacier on the western slopes above Azau Glacier. IN 2001 the terminus has retreated a short distance from 1998. By 2013 the terminus has retreated 450 m to just beneath the knob at the pink arrow, 30 m per year. The terminus is now at 2850 meters. The glacier on the western slopes has separated at the orange arrow and the connection at the red arrows has been reduced to 200 meters from 1000 meters in 1998. A close up view of the terminus in 2009 indicates that it is still just downvalley of the prominent knob. Only the lower 300 m of the glacier is uncrevassed, above this point active crevassing is widespread. The Krugozor Ski Station is also noted. This glacier is retreating faster now than during the 1957-2000 period like the Irik Glacier to the east on Mount Elbrus. This likewise is the pattern of retreat observed elsewhere in the Caucasus at Gora Bashkara,Kirtisho Glacier and Lednik Karaugom Glacier. The glacier still has an extensive accumulation zone.
1998 Landsat image
2001 Landsat Image
2013 Landsat Image
2009 Google Earth Image
Irik Glacier flows down the southeast flank of Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, red arrow on map points to current terminus of Irik Glacier, top image. The map terminus extended 1 kilometer further down the mountain. The glacier currently begins at 5000 m and descends to 2800 m, bottom image orange arrows indicate main accumulation areas, this compares to a terminus elevation of 2600 meters on the map.A decrease of area of glaciers of the Central Caucasus by 16% in the last 40 years is reported, on Elbrus the loss has been 8 % Russian Academy of Sciences National Geophysical Committee (2011). August 1998 (Top) and 2010 image (bottom) indicate the snowline on Irik Glacier, orange arrows and the glacier terminus blue arrows. The fraction of the glacier that is snowcovered is the accumulation area ratio (AAR), typically a glacier needs an AAR of 0.5-0.65 at the end of the melt season in September to be in equilibrium. For the nearby Djankuat Glacier, where annual mass balance data is reported to the World Glacier Monitoring Service, the AAR value for equilibrium is reported as 0.55. For Irik Glacier in 1998 and 2010 the AAR is 32 and 28 respectively and this is still with several weeks of melting. By the end of the melt season both would be below 0.3. The result of consistent negative balances is glacier retreat. For Irik Glacier the retreat from 1998 (top) to 2010 (bottom) is 600-700 meters, note blue arrows indicating terminus location and red arrow indicating a small rise on the southwest side of the glacier that the glacier used to wrap around, but no longer does. In a Google Earth image from 2009 the lower of the glacier is narrow and uncrevassed, this is a section that is quickly melting away. The orange arrows point out the lateral moraines from the Little Ice Age, the blue arrow the 1998 terminus and the red arrow the terminus in 2010. Irik Glacier must retreat to attempt to reestablish equilibrium with climate warming that has reduced the accumulation area. At present the lower 300 meters of the glacier is not crevassed and will melt away. Above that point the glacier is crevassed and vigorous in its flow.