In summer 2005, two pilot snow/firn cores were obtained at 5365 and 5206 m a.s.l. on Fedchenko glacier, Pamirs, Tajikistan, the world’s longest and deepest alpine glacier. The well-defined seasonal layering appearing in stable-isotope and trace element distribution identified the physical links controlling the climate and aerosol concentration signals. Air temperature and humidity/precipitation were the primary determinants of stable-isotope ratios. Most precipitation over the Pamirs originated in the Atlantic. In summer, water vapor was re-evaporated from semi-arid regions in central Eurasia. The semi-arid regions contribute to non-soluble aerosol loading in snow accumulated on Fedchenko glacier. In the Pamir core, concentrations of rare earth elements, major and other elements were less than those in the Tien Shan but greater than those in Antarctica, Greenland, the Alps and the Altai. The content of heavy metals in the Fedchenko cores is 2–14 times lower than in the Altai glaciers. Loess from Afghan–Tajik deposits is the predominant lithogenic material transported to the Pamirs. Trace elements generally showed that aerosol concentration tended to increase on the windward slopes during dust storms but tended to decrease with altitude under clear conditions. The trace element profile documented one of the most severe droughts in the 20th century.
‘There is no culture without glaciers. Without the mountain ranges where the snow is accumulated over winter and eventually packed to become ice, the flat lands would be desert lands’
W. Rickmer Rickmers (1929); after his expedition to the Pamirs with R. Finsterwalder