• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Almanac/Merzbacher Lake

Air Date: Week of August 8, 2003

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

This week, we have facts about Merzbacher Lake in Kyrgyzstan. This glacial lake was discovered 100 years ago and just about every year since its icy dam has broken and released a deluge in the valleys below.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living On Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Neu! “Im Gluck” Neu! Astralwerks (1972)]

One hundred years ago, German explorer Gottfried Merzbacher led an expedition through the Tien Shan Mountains in modern Kyrgyzstan. There, on the western edge of the Himalayas, he discovered a remote glacial lake. In a lengthy chronicle of his travels, he hardly mentions the lake that now bears his name. But he just saw it on the wrong day. Later, visitors learned of its dynamic nature. Almost every year, Merzbacher Lake appears, expands, dies a spectacular death, and is reborn. Its evolution takes place in a steep, virtually inaccessible valley where two glaciers meet. When the spring sun begins to melt the ice, water flows into the valley, collects on top of the glacier's ice, and is penned in by an ice dam.

At the peak of its cycle, the lake has an area of about five square kilometers. But by then it's late summer, the temperature is rising, and like a bottle of fine champagne, a cork of ice pops out from the base of the dam and water bursts free in an icy explosion. In just three days, the lake disappears and the cycle begins again.

Even one hundred years after its discovery, westerners still don't know much about Merzbacher Lake. Scientists are currently investigating the area's geology, and updating Soviet-era maps of the region using satellite images to better understand this natural wonder.

And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

[MUSIC]

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.