[Skip to content]
Browse image
Resolutions offered for this image:
540 x 787 pixels 1000 x 1242 pixels 1024 x 768 pixels 540 x 405 pixels 3032 x 2064 pixels 639 x 435 pixels

latitude/longitude of image
Spacecraft nadir point: 44.0° N, 46.2° E

Photo center point: 42.5° N, 44.5° E

Nadir to Photo Center: Southwest

Spacecraft Altitude: 208 nautical miles (385km)
Click for Google map
features and other details
information about camera used
additional formats
Width Height Annotated Cropped Purpose Links
540 pixels 787 pixels Yes Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download Image
1000 pixels 1242 pixels No NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download Image
1024 pixels 768 pixels Yes Presentation Download Image
540 pixels 405 pixels Scientist Request Download Image
3032 pixels 2064 pixels No No Download Image
639 pixels 435 pixels No No Download Image
Other options available:
Download Packaged File
Download a Google Earth KML for this Image
View photo footprint information
Image Caption: This photograph of Mt. Kazbek was taken from the International Space Station on August 13, 2002. The astronauts and cosmonauts took the photograph at the request of the Russian URAGAN project, which is studying changes in the world's glaciers in response to global climate change. Although scientists have predicted the possibility of large glacial collapses as the climate warms, no one predicted that tragedy would strike the mountain village of Karmadon, a little more than a month later.

On September 20 a collapse of a hanging glacier from the slope of Mt Dzhimarai-Khokh onto the Kolka glacier triggered an avalanche of ice and debris that went over the Maili Glacier terminus then slid over 15 miles. It buried small villages in the Russian Republic of North Ossetia, killing dozens of people. Where the ice stopped, the glacial debris flow dammed rivers further below. Several lakes formed and one of them flooded a village. The lakes are now threatening to burst and form debris flows.

This photograph shows the lower part of the Kolka Glacier terminus, on to which the glacier from Mt Dzhimarai-Khokh collapsed--the mountain itself is further to the west. However, the Maili Glacier and its terminus, as well as the upper part of the Genaldon River valley that was filled by the debris slide is very clear in the photo. In this very detailed view, Karmadon is much further to the North.

Exactly a hundred years ago, in 1902, the same kind of catastrophe happened in this valley, killing 32 people. In 1969 Kolka Glacier surged, but there were no casualties and the villages were not affected. The 1969 surge was studied by a special expedition, however after the glacier stabilized, research in the area stopped. It was concluded that the 1902 catastrophe was also a result of a glacier surge. The latest data on the 2002 catastrophe raise doubts in this conclusion--it is possible that the 1902 event resulted from a similar cascade of collapses.

Russian scientists Olga Tutubalina, Dmitry Petrakov, Sergei Chernomorets (Moscow State University) and Lev Dessinov (Russian Academy of Sciences) have been cooperating with the NASA Crew Earth Observations project to help interpret detailed glacier imagery captured from the International Space Station. International Space Station crewmembers are surveying glaciers around the world using their low orbit and high-magnification lenses to get high spatial resolution.