Glacier meltwater: current and future relevance of mountain hydrology in Kyrgyzstan

Arid and densely populated regions of Central Asia strongly depend on water from nearby mountain ranges. The changing climate will likely affect river discharge and related water availability from glacier melt. While a number of studies point towards a decrease in future water availability, comparison to actual discharge measurements is rarely carried out as data are relatively sparse.

This project aims at intensifying collaboration with researchers from Kyrgyzstan. We will focus on the problem of present and future hydrology in Central Asia on the example of the At-Bashy Mountain Range in the south-eastern Kyrgyz Tien Shan. Meltwater from the glaciers of the At-Bashy Range is one of the sources of the Naryn River. As the main contributor to the Syr-Darya River, the Naryn is a major and vital source of water for large parts of the dry and densely populated lowlands of Central Asia.


Study area: Kyrgyzstan, Naryn river catchment


  • Illustrations

    a) Modelled mass balance distribution (year 2014/15) for glaciers in the catchment of Bolshoy Naryn, b) Comparison of monthly measured runoff and contribution of glacier melt to total runoff – catchment of the river Bolshoy Naryn (~5500 km2).

Duration: 2018 to 2020

Funded by: Bilateral Science and Technology cooperation program with Russia and the CIS Region of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (grant SFG 324).

Collaborators: Tomas Saks, Martina Barandun, Martin Hoelzle, Central Asian Institute of Applied Geosciences (CAIAG), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan


Horst Machguth

Department of Geosciences

University of Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 4

CH–1700 Fribourg

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