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Medvezhiy Glacier Advancing 10 feet per day

Has dammed a local river


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The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured
this natural-color image of Medvezhiy Glacier on July 23, 2011. Annotations mark the position
of the glacier terminus on May 2, June 3, and July 23, 2011.

30 Jul 11 - Last month, the Medvezhiy Glacier in Tajikistan slid abruptly down its valley for greater distance than it has in at least 22 years.

According to satellite imagery and reports from local scientists, the glacier has moved roughly 2600 to 3000 feet (800 to 1,000 m) since June 2011.

     Half a mile in one month!

     That's 10 feet (three meters) per day! 

The glacier normally moves 650 to 1300 feet (200 to 400 meters) in an entire year.

The sudden downhill slide raised concern among glaciologists and emergency management groups about a potential glacial outburst flood that could flow down into the Vanch River valley.

The mud-covered terminus of the glacier now blocks the Abdukagor River and is forming a glacial lake behind a wall of ice 500 to 650 feet (150 to 200 m) high and more than 1,000 feet (300 m) across. Cracks and ice tunnels may be allowing some water to flow through; a bridge across the river downstream has been washed out from one water surge so far.

Located in southern Tajikistan in the Pamir Mountains, Medvezhiy (Bear) Glacier is roughly 10 miles (16 km) long, and drains out of the Academii Nauk (Academy of Sciences) Range. The upper end of Medvezhiy sits 14,800 feet (4,500 m) above sea level, with the terminus at roughly 9,900 feet (3,000 m). It is described by glaciologists as a pulsating glacier with periodic surging; the most recent surges were 1989 and 2001.

Major surges in 1963 and 1973 caused the formation of ephemeral (short-lived) lakes that swelled behind the ice. In each case, the glacier surged as much as 1.2 miles (2 km) down the valley and blocked the Abdukagor River with ice dams as much as 330 feet (100 m) high. When the ice dams broke, more than 20 million cubic meters of water flowed down the river. No lives were lost in those instances, but infrastructure damage was significant, according to reports. Scientists have regularly surveyed the area since the 1960s.



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