Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Systems Ecology

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

John S. Kimball

Commitee Members

Brady Allred, Sarah J. Halvorson, Peter B. Kirchner, Hugh Robinson


AMSR, climate change, glaciers, Mongolia, remote sensing, snow cover


University of Montana


Mongolia’s cryosphere (glaciers and snow cover) drives ecosystem services and in turn, supports emerging economies in the water-restricted country. However, as Mongolia experiences long-term drought conditions and an increase in annual air temperatures at twice the global rate, the potential adverse effects of the changing cryosphere during a period of climate uncertainty will have cascading implications to water availability and economic development. Using several data sources and methods, I partitioned my dissertation into two components to determine the hydrologic and economic implications of modulations in Mongolia’s cryosphere. The first component is an examination of glacier recession in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains, where I identified the major drivers of glacier recession and the role of glaciers in the regional hydrology. In the second component we created novel techniques to detect snowmelt events and to determine their role in large annual livestock mortality across Mongolia.

In chapter 2 we identified a rate of glacier recession of 6.4 ± 0.4 km2 yr-1 from 1990-2016, resulting in an overall decrease in glacier area of 43%, which were comparable to rates of recession in mountain ranges across Central Asia. In chapter 3 we found that glaciers contributed up to 22% of the regional hydrology in the glaciated Upper Khovd River Basin (UKRB) and glacier melt contributions began to decrease after 2016, suggesting an overall depletion of accumulation zones. In chapter 4, we developed a novel approach to detect snow melt events in Alaska, USA – due to its high satellite coverage, climate monitoring network, and previous existing studies – and produced a gridded geospatial data product. In chapter 5, we expanded on the novel methods developed in chapter 4 to determine the spatio-temporal role of snowmelt events on large annual livestock mortality in Mongolia. Results showed strong correlations between snowmelt events and mortality in the southern Gobi during the fall and the central and western regions during the spring. As Mongolia continues to develop climatically vulnerable economic industries, future modulations in Mongolia’s cryosphere will likely decrease regional water-availability and amplify annual livestock mortality.



© Copyright 2018 Caleb Gikai Pan