Ice in Paradise: Glacial Heritage Landscapes of Anatolia

  • Mehmet Akif SarıkayaEmail author
  • Attila Çiner
Part of the World Geomorphological Landscapes book series (WGLC)


Lofty mountains of Turkish landscape are shaped by glacial activities in the past. Over the last decade, our knowledge on the Quaternary glacial morphology and timing of glaciations has been notably increased thanks to cosmogenic exposure ages obtained from glacial landforms. Here, we synthesize the current art-of-the-science on the extent and chronology of Turkish glaciations. Glacier-related landscapes are found in three regions: in the Taurus Mountains, in the Eastern Black Sea Region and on volcanoes and independent mountains scattered across Anatolia. The Taurus Mountains show well-preserved examples of lateral and terminal moraines on north-facing glacial valleys and cirques. Hummocky moraines are evident in large areas on Geyikdağ, in the central Taurus Range. The eastern and northern Turkey bear the most noticeable glacial and periglacial features. The only ice cap of Anatolia is located on the summit of Mount Ağrı (Ararat), and the longest valley glaciers are located in the south-eastern Taurus Mountains, near the Iraqi border of Turkey. Cosmogenic dating results from these mountains, especially from the western and northern parts of Turkey, suggest that the oldest glaciers existed well before the global Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (around 35.000 years (35 ka) ago). However, the most extensive glaciers developed during the LGM, about 21 ka ago. Palaeoclimate on LGM obtained from glacier modelling suggest that the moisture levels were up to two times more near the Mediterranean coast, while it was drier on the central and northern Turkey and 8–11 °C colder than present conditions. Younger glacial advances were generally smaller and dated between 16 and 11 ka ago. Modern glaciers and rock glacier were located only at certain locations, as descendant of the older glaciers. Recent glaciers have retreated significantly since the beginning of the last century, and the retreat rates calculated from historical observations are consistent with the general warming trend of the past century.


Glacier Periglacial Rock glacier Ice cap Moraine Cirque Hummocky morphology Cosmogenic nuclides Palaeoclimate 



This work represents a summary of several projects that were financially supported by TÜBİTAK (Grants 101Y002, 107Y069, 110Y300, 112Y087, 112Y139, 114Y548 and 116Y155) and by US National Science Foundation (Grant 0115298). This work would not have been possible without the inspiring guidance of Marek Zreda (University of Arizona) who pioneered the applications of 36Cl cosmogenic surface dating in Turkey. We would like to thank to our colleagues Serdar Bayarı and Erdal Şen (Hacettepe University), Lütfi Nazik (Ahi Evran University), Koray Törk (MTA), Cengiz Yıldırım (Istanbul Technical University) who joined us in the field and enriched our understanding regarding the glacial past of Turkey. Naki Akçar (University of Bern), Volkan Dede (Bilecik University), Hakan Gün (Atlas Magazine), Tahir Yılmaz and Andrew Sevag kindly provided some of the glacial landscape photographs. A.Ç. is also indebted to late Max Deynoux (University of Strasbourg) who passed away in 2017, for introducing him to glacial deposits in Turkey.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eurasia Institute of Earth Sciences, Istanbul Technical UniversityIstanbulTurkey

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