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Volume 10, issue 4
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 1807-1827, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-10-1807-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 1807-1827, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-10-1807-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  10 Oct 2018

10 Oct 2018

A consistent glacier inventory for Karakoram and Pamir derived from Landsat data: distribution of debris cover and mapping challenges

Nico Mölg1, Tobias Bolch1, Philipp Rastner1, Tazio Strozzi2, and Frank Paul1 Nico Mölg et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstr. 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland, Switzerland
  • 2Gamma Remote Sensing, Worbstr. 225, 3073 Gümligen, Switzerland

Abstract. Knowledge about the coverage and characteristics of glaciers in High Mountain Asia (HMA) is still incomplete and heterogeneous. However, several applications, such as modelling of past or future glacier development, run-off, or glacier volume, rely on the existence and accessibility of complete datasets. In particular, precise outlines of glacier extent are required to spatially constrain glacier-specific calculations such as length, area, and volume changes or flow velocities. As a contribution to the Randolph Glacier Inventory (RGI) and the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) glacier database, we have produced a homogeneous inventory of the Pamir and the Karakoram mountain ranges using 28 Landsat TM and ETM+ scenes acquired around the year 2000. We applied a standardized method of automated digital glacier mapping and manual correction using coherence images from the Advanced Land Observing Satellite 1 (ALOS-1) Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar 1 (PALSAR-1) as an additional source of information; we then (i) separated the glacier complexes into individual glaciers using drainage divides derived by watershed analysis from the ASTER global digital elevation model version 2 (GDEM2) and (ii) separately delineated all debris-covered areas. Assessment of uncertainties was performed for debris-covered and clean-ice glacier parts using the buffer method and independent multiple digitizing of three glaciers representing key challenges such as shadows and debris cover. Indeed, along with seasonal snow at high elevations, shadow and debris cover represent the largest uncertainties in our final dataset. In total, we mapped more than 27800 glaciers  > 0.02km2 covering an area of 35 520±1948km2 and an elevation range from 2260 to 8600m. Regional median glacier elevations vary from 4150m (Pamir Alai) to almost 5400m (Karakoram), which is largely due to differences in temperature and precipitation. Supraglacial debris covers an area of 3587±662km2, i.e. 10% of the total glacierized area. Larger glaciers have a higher share in debris-covered area (up to  > 20%), making it an important factor to be considered in subsequent applications (https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.894707).

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Knowledge about the size and location of glaciers is essential to understand impacts of climatic changes on the natural environment. Therefore, we have produced an inventory of all glaciers in some of the largest glacierized mountain regions worldwide. Many large glaciers are covered by a rock (debris) layer, which also changes their reaction to climatic changes. Thus, we have also mapped this debris layer for all glaciers. We have mapped almost 28000 glaciers covering ~35000 km2.
Knowledge about the size and location of glaciers is essential to understand impacts of climatic...
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