Map of the Djankuat Research Basin
  • Location: Russia; 43.21°N, 42.74°E
  • Operational Management: Lomonosov Moscow State University; Water problems institute Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Purpose/Scientific Focus: The Djankuat Glacier was chosen as representative of the central North Caucasus during the International Hydrological Decade (IHD) - research program on water problems launched by UNESCO in 1965 -  and is one of 30 ‘reference’ glaciers in the world which has annual mass balance series longer than 50 years. The mass-balance measurements have been carried out on Djankuat glacier since 1967 till now regularly (www.wgms.ch) based on standard methods. Detailed hydrological and meteorological measurements were included in the monitoring program of the station during the IHD and came to an end in the late 1970s. The comprehensive hydrometeorological observation was resumed in the Djankuat research basin since 2007. Hydrometeorological measurements were done during the ablation season every year since 2007, all-year round hydrological gauge since 2021, and the observational program gradually expanded during 2007–2023 and now goes beyond the standard network hydrological and meteorological observations.  


Climate conditions according to the closest all-year round meteorological station in Terskol
  • Location (Physiographic Region): Alpine zone of the North Caucasus.
  • Area: 12.4 km2 
  • Elevation: 2600 - 4000 m  
  • Description (Physical–Ecological–Climatic Characteristics): The Djankuat research basin is situated on the northern slope of the central part of the Main Caucasian Ridge. The climate is moderate continental to high-alpine.   
  • Drainage/River System: The Djankuat River is a source of the Adul-Su River – a tributary of the Baksan River which drains into the Caspian Sea via the Terek River.
  • Site History/Historical Context: The Djankuat glacier was chosen as representative of the central North Caucasus during the International Hydrological Decade (IHD) - research program on water problems launched by UNESCO in 1965 - and is one of 30 ‘reference’ glaciers in the world which has annual mass balance series longer than 50 years.    
  • Glacierized Area (% and year(s) measured): In 2017 glaciers occupied 27% of the territory of the basin. The main glacier with the same name – Djankuat Glacier – is the source of the Djankuat River. It is a valley glacier, with the lowest point of the tongue at approximately 2750 m, the elevation of the bergschrund is at 3600 m. The mean elevation of the glacier is 3210 m, the area is 2.42 km2, and its length is 3.0 km. The maximum measured thickness of the glacier is 105 m, and the average thickness is 31 m. The Djankuat River basin also contains three small glaciers with areas less than 0.5 km2: Koyavgan, Via-Tau, and Visyachiy.  
  • Main Land Cover(s): Alpine highlands with steep slopes and a wide development of coarse-grained deposits, with numerous outcrops of exposed rocks, with alpine lawns in the lower part of the basin and with glacial-nival landscapes in its middle and upper parts.  
  • Lithology/Soils: Crystalline schists and gneisses; gravelly shallow humus soils. 
  • Mean Annual Temperature: 2.7°C
  • Mean Total Annual Precipitation: 942 
  • Snow Characteristics: Stable snow cover is generally observed on the whole basin area from October-November to May. In the accumulation zone of glaciers snow persists through the year. Mean measured snowdepth on the Djankuat Glacier is 3600 mm, Maximum is 11550 mm.
  • Years of Data: (1970s) – 2007 – ongoing 

Stations & Observations

Observational Stations and Sites

Type Station Name Latitude Longitude Elevation Notes/Details
Meteorological Djankuat Base Camp AWS 43.208°N 42.736°E 2640 m 
Meteorological Djankuat Glacier AWS 1 43.198°N 42.757°E 3000 m  IV zone of the Djankuat glacier on the ice surface
Meteorological Djankuat Glacier AWS 2 43.200°N 42.759°E 3050 m IV zone of the Djankuat glacier on the debris covered ice
Meteorological Djankuat Glacier AWS 3 43.193°N 42.759°E 3200 m
Hydrometric Djankuat River Base Camp Gauging Station 43.209°N 42.736°E 2630 m
Hydrometric Djankuat River Rock Gauging Station 43.213°N 42.725°E 2600 m

Field Observation Campaigns and Other Measurements

Measurement Instrument Description Spatial/Temporal Resolution and Coverage Notes/Details
Glacier Ice Thickness

radio-echo sounding and modelling

2012-2013 Lavrentiev I.I., Kutuzov S.S., Petrakov D.A., Popov G.A., Popovnin V.V. Ice thickness, volume and subglacial relief of Djankuat Glacier (Central Caucasus).  Ice and Snow. 2014;54(4):7-19. https://doi.org/10.15356/2076-6734-2014-4-7-19

Glacier/snow ablation is measured at 35–45 evenly distributed points on the Djankuat Glacier surface, 2007–ongoing, with 1-30 days timestep.

Data Availability

Geospatial Data

Elevation available on request
Landcover and Soils Aleynikova, A. M. Struktura i dinamika prilednikovykh landshaftov Priel'brus'ya / A. M. Aleynikova, M. N. Petrushina // Lod i sneg. – 2011. – № 2(114). – S. 127-134. – EDN PJEMMH. (in Russian)
Stream/River Network available on request
Basin Delineation/Shapefile available on request

Observational Data Availability 

  • Rets, E. P., Popovnin, V. V., Toropov, P. A., Smirnov, A. M., Tokarev, I. V., Chizhova, J. N., Budantseva N. A. et al. 2019 Djankuat glacier station in the North Caucasus, Russia: a database of glaciological, hydrological, and meteorological observations and stable isotope sampling results during 2007–2017. Earth System Science Data 11, 3, 1463-1481. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-11-1463-2019 
  • Rets, EP; Popovnin, VV; Toropov, PA et al. (2022): Hydrological, meteorological observations and isotopes sampling results during 2019-2020 at Djankuat Glacier Station in the North Caucasus, Russia. https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.940839   

Modelling Activities

Contact & Further Information

Additional Information  Contacts