The First Rock Glacier Inventory for the Greater Caucasus

Levan G. Tielidze, Alessandro Cicoira, Gennady A. Nosenko, Shaun R. Eaves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Rock glaciers are an integral part of the periglacial environment. At the regional scale in the Greater Caucasus, there have been no comprehensive systematic efforts to assess the distribution of rock glaciers, although some individual parts of ranges have been mapped before. In this study we produce the first inventory of rock glaciers from the entire Greater Caucasus region—Russia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. A remote sensing survey was conducted using Geo-Information System (GIS) and Google Earth Pro software based on high-resolution satellite imagery—SPOT, Worldview, QuickBird, and IKONOS, based on data obtained during the period 2004–2021. Sentinel-2 imagery from the year 2020 was also used as a supplementary source. The ASTER GDEM (2011) was used to determine location, elevation, and slope for all rock glaciers. Using a manual approach to digitize rock glaciers, we discovered that the mountain range contains 1461 rock glaciers with a total area of 297.8 ± 23.0 km2. Visual inspection of the morphology suggests that 1018 rock glaciers with a total area of 199.6 ± 15.9 km2 (67% of the total rock glacier area) are active, while the remaining rock glaciers appear to be relict. The average maximum altitude of all rock glaciers is found at 3152 ± 96 m above sea level (a.s.l.) while the mean and minimum altitude are 3009 ± 91 m and 2882 ± 87 m a.s.l., respectively. We find that the average minimum altitude of active rock glaciers is higher (2955 ± 98 m a.s.l.) than in relict rock glaciers (2716 ± 83 m a.s.l.). No clear difference is discernible between the surface slope of active (41.4 ± 3°) and relict (38.8 ± 4°) rock glaciers in the entire mountain region. This inventory provides a database for understanding the extent of permafrost in the Greater Caucasus and is an important basis for further research of geomorphology and palaeoglaciology in this region. The inventory will be submitted to the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) database and can be used for future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117
Number of pages19
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Caucasus Mountains
  • glacier inventory
  • permafrost
  • rock glacier

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