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Estimating glacier volume loss using remotely sensed images, digital elevation data, and GIS modelling

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Glacier retreat has received much attention in the public and scientific community as a sensitive indicator of global warming. Parameters for changes in glacier size include length, area, volume, and mass balance. While measurement of changes in glacier length and area is relatively straightforward using remotely sensed data, estimating changes in volume and mass balance remains a major challenge. The objectives of this research are to (1) develop a new model to describe the nonlinear thinning process of a glacier surface headward from the terminus position and (2) reconstruct historical glacier longitudinal profiles and 3D surfaces based on current glacier longitudinal profile and thinning rate, and estimate glacier volume loss. Using historical terminus positions and Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM), IKONOS, and Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) global digital elevation model (GDEM) data for the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas, longitudinal profiles and 3D surfaces of the glacier for 1900, 1935, and 1971 were reconstructed, and the amount and rate of volumetric losses during 1900–1935, 1935–1971, and 1971–2005 were derived. The methods can be used for more detailed study on estimating volume loss of the Himalayan glaciers and other glaciers.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Key Laboratory of Digital Earth Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100094, China 2: Texas Academy of Mathematics and Sciences (TAMS), University of North Texas, Denton, TX, 76203, USA

Publication date: December 20, 2013

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