Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Earth Observation Research Center

June 3, 2006


Gigantic Glacier in Pamir Mountains: Fedchenko Glacier

The Pamir Mountains in eastern Tajikistan are called the roof of the world and have many glaciers. Fedchenko Glacier, the greatest one of the world outside the polar regions, is 77 km long and 1,700 m to 3,100 m wide, with a surface area of 992 km2 and more ice than 500 m thick.This glacier originates from the northwestern slope of the Revolutsiya Peak (Revolution Peak, 6,974 m above sea level) 6,200 m above sea level, flows north at 67 cm per day, merges with branch glaciers on its way, and ends at 2,900 m above sea level near the border with Kyrgyzstan. The melted water flows into the Balandkiik River, which joins the large Amu-Dar'ya River in Central Asia, and finally pours into the Aral Sea. The glacier is named after the Russian explorer Alexei Pavlovich Fedchenko (1844 to 1873), although it was found in 1878 after his death.

The Fedchenko Glacier, which extends north and south in the center of the figure, appears white on the southern side (upstream side) and dark-purple on the northern side (downstream side). Since the upstream glacier covered with snow and ice reflects sunlight quite strongly, it looks pure white, whereas the surface of the downstream glacier is covered with rock debris, so it looks dark-purple as it reflects sun light rather weakly. The Fedchenko Glacier Observatory (38.83N, 72.22E, 4,156 m above sea level) is located in the western Pamir, and Murgab Meteorological Station (38.17N, 73.97E, 3,576 m above sea level) is in the eastern Pamir (outside the figure). The stations provide important data about the climate change and for the environmental analysis in Central Asia. Many glaciers in the Pamir Mountains as well as the Fedchenko Glacier are melting in recent years, and the influence on water resources of that area may become a serious concern.