Glaciers of Kronotsky Peninsula

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The numerous snowfields and glaciers on volcanoes of the reserve are interesting for sightseers. Snow, which accumulates in the mountain areas in massive quantities, often does not even have time to melt during the short, cool summer. Of the 414 glaciers of the Kamchatka Peninsula, 46 are found in the reserve. The largest glaciers are on the Kronotsky Peninsula, where they form a massive glacial system covering 11,000 ha.

Some years the area of snowfields and glaciers reaches 14,000 ha in the reserve (14% of its territory). These include glaciers on the Bolshoy Semyachik, Kikhpinych, Kronotsky, Gamchen and other volcanoes. There is a variety of glacier types, but cirques, stellates, circulars, and ring glaciers predominate.

The largest glaciers are on the Kronotsky Peninsula, where they form a massive glacial system covering 11,000 ha (including ice-land, cirques, and ice-land-cirques). In places they reach down to 600–345 meters above sea level, and are from 8 to 12 km from the coast.

The Tyushevsky Glacier is the largest and the most massive in the reserve. It begins at an altitude of 1,200 m and reaches down to 600 m above sea level between the Levaya Tyushevka River and Kozlova River. The glacier feeds these rivers. The length of the glacier from south to north is 6 km.

The Chazhminsky Glacier lies 4 kilometers from the Tyushevsky Glacier, at the foot of Vladimirskaya Mountain, where it begets the Bolshaya Chazhma River.

Other large glaciers worth noting include the Koryto, Polye Brovko, Polye Bunina, Alney, Avgusty, Troya, Mhuk, and Golovka.

The Kronotsky Peninsula is like the North Pole of Eurasia. In winter, the area receives 3,000 mm of precipitation, sometimes as much as 4,500 mm. The glaciers reach to a low altitude and influence the phenology of nearby natural ecosystems. For example, in the basin of Bolshaya Chazhma River, which is fed by cirque-water flowing from the Polye Markova Glacier, forest and wetland ecosystems are some of the last to become free of snow cover on Kamchatka, hence delaying the vegetative period and breeding for birds and insects.

Glaciers play an important role in the reserve’s natural ecosystems, feeding the main watersheds, affecting the weather, and playing a role in regulation of air moisture. Where glaciers meet open lands, unique vegetation and animal groupings along with rare species are often found. The Kronotsky Peninsula glaciers have been poorly studied, but could be useful as objects of long-term monitoring.

The first studies of some of the glaciers and ice caps were carried out made in 1930. Their size was estimated only in 1946, after A.N. Zavaritsky’s expedition made aerial photo coverage of Kamchatka. The most detailed data was first recorded after an expedition of 1960.

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