Biblical mountain's glaciers shrinking

2010-09-08 18:18

Istanbul - The glaciers atop Mount Ararat, the peak in eastern Turkey where Noah's Ark is believed by devotees to have settled after the Biblical flood, have shrunk by 30% in surface area over the last 30 years, a researcher said on Wednesday.

"We used satellite images to analyse the response of glaciers at the summit of Mount Ararat to climate change," geologist Mehmet Akif Sarikaya told AFP.

"The glacier surface area decreased from 8km² in 1976 to 5.5km² in 2008, a loss of about 7ha a year," said Sarikaya, an assistant professor at Istanbul's Fatih University, who also lectures at the University of Omaha, Nebraska.

The scientist warned that temperature change might eventually threaten the very existence of the ice fields.

"We sought the reasons for the melting and found that the temperature had increased by 0.03ºC per year" during the period studied, he said.

Other factors, such as increased precipitation, sunshine or topography, might have also contributed to the glacial loss, he added.

Sarikaya said he was unable to comment on the causes of climate change around Mount Ararat.

Previous research has found accelerating glacier erosion in the European Alps and South American Andes, and attributed the loss to man-made global warming.

The Bible's Book of Genesis says God decided to flood the Earth after seeing how corrupt it had become, and told Noah to build an Ark and fill it with two of every species.

After the waters receded, the Ark came to rest on a mountain that believers contend is Mount Ararat, at 5 137m, the country's highest peak.

Many teams have scoured the mountain to find the Ark, without any convincing results so far. Sarikaya declined to comment on whether the melting of the glaciers would provide new opportunities in the search.