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Touyuk-Su glacier and glacial science in Kazakhstan

   

WHAT DID YOU KNOW ABOUT GLACIERS?

Northern Tien Shan. Zailiysky (Trans-Ili) Alatau Range. The largest city of Kazakhstan -Almaty – is located at its foot, being the entrance gate to the dazzling kingdom of snow, ice and majestic peaks. But what do we, the inhabitants of the city, know about this white kingdom?

The glaciers of the Trans-Ili Alatau (there are 400 of them) occupy an area of about 420 sq. km. They contain about 25 cubic km of ice. Glaciers are not stable structures; they are constantly in the process of transformation. Modern processes occur against the background of general metamorphosis in natural conditions and anthropogenic impact. Glaciers are subject to climate change, especially air temperature fluctuations and humidification.

Undoubtedly, the most visited and studied glacier of Trans-Ili Alatau is the Central Touyuk-Su, located in the upper reaches of Small Almatinka valley. Its story is amazing:

In 1902, S.E. Dmitriev discovered and described the Touyuk-Su mountain basin, with its largest glacier - Central Touyuk-Su. Dmitriev was the first to visit and make observations on the speed of movement and the position of the glacier tongue. In 1902 and 1905 He first determined the height of the snow line at 3680m above sea level.

In 1916, V.D. Gorodetsky visited the area of the Touyuk-Su glacier and photographed its central part. In the photo, the entire lower part (1.5 km) represented a monolith without traces of surface contamination: it reached the rocks in the short spur dividing the basins of the main glacier and the Molodezhny glacier.

In 1922, 1923 and1926, N.N. Palgov, the founder of glaciological science in Kazakhstan, did few research trips to the Touyuk-Su area. The results of his observations confirmed the visual impressions, based on an analysis of Gorodetsky pictures.

After a 10-year break, in 1937, an expedition was organized by the Department of Hydro-meteorological Service of the Kazakh Soviet Republic under the guidance of G. Yunusov, with V.G. Gorbunov, M.P. Zatullo and R.G. Timofeev as members. It was a beginning of a systematic study of the basin. The glaciers were put on the plan, and three of them - Central Touyuk-Su, Touyuk-Su Needles and Molodezhny - were monitored in terms of melting and movement. In 1938, the second expedition repeated the same observation program, which then continued until 1943.

In 1946 (after a WWII), studies of the Touyuk-Su glaciers were resumed by the Geography Sector of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences under a management of N.N. Palgov. At the beginning of the 50s, famous scientists worked here: the climatologist L.N. Demchenko, glaciologist P.A. Chekasov, geologist L.Y. Serov, geographer V.A. Zenkova, geographer and glaciologist K.G. Makarevich.

In 1957, new observations were started on the Touyuk-Su glaciers, according to the program called “Zailiysky glacial expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR”. This basin has become a permanent experimental base of Kazakhstan glaciologists.

In 1968, the seasonal Touyuksu-2 meteorological station was open on the tongue of the Central Touyuk-Su glacier. Along with the main meteorological and heat-balance observations, it measured snow and ice ablation near the meteorological site. In summer period, similar station called Touyuksu-3 was operating in the circus of the glacier.

In 1971, two wooden houses of 54 sq.m each were built on the moraine of the Molodezhny glacier. It significantly improved the living conditions of glaciologists and had a positive effect on the process of conducting observations and research work. Year-round observations of the formation and distribution of snow reserves in the mountain-glacial basin, precipitation, river runoff, state of moraine lakes, avalanche and mudflow conditions were resumed.

70s and 80s marked the peak of scientific activity. The base of the Zailiysky glacial expedition is visited by hundreds of scientists from various research institutes of the USSR and abroad. In the summer season, students from leading universities, such as Moscow State University, Leningrad State University and, of course, Kazakh State University held internships here.

Since the beginning of the 90s, funding has almost ceased, but the station was saved by incredible efforts.

In the 2000s, the situation improved somewhat, foreign research grants appeared, and the government also found some funds to support scientific activities. Yet, this is not the "golden age" of Touyuk-Su…

Touyuk-Su glacier in 1960 Touyuk-Su glacier in 1968 Touyuk-Su glacier in 2010
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