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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2018-35
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  05 Apr 2018

05 Apr 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD) and is expected to appear here in due course.

A consistent glacier inventory for the Karakoram and Pamir regions 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.
  • 1Institute of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Gamma Remote Sensing, Worbstr. 225, 3073 Gümligen, Switzerland

Abstract. The knowledge about the coverage and characteristics of glaciers in High Mountain Asia is still incomplete and heterogeneous. However, several applications such as modelling of past or future glacier development, runoff 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 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 way of automated digital glacier mapping and manual correction using coherence images from ALOS-1 PALSAR-1 as an additional source of information, separated the glacier complexes into individual glaciers using drainage divides derived by watershed analysis from the ASTER GDEM2, and 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 27'400 glaciers >0.02km2 covering an area of 35'287 ± 1209km2 and an elevation range from 2260m to 8600m with regional median glacier elevations varying from 4150m (Pamir Alai) to almost 5400m (Karakoram); this being largely due to differences in temperature and precipitation. The coverage of glaciers by debris is on average ~5%, but glaciers >5km2 have often a much higher area share (>10%), making it an important factor to be considered in subsequent applications. Location of dataset: http://www.geo.uzh.ch/~nmoelg/glacier_inventory.zip

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Nico Mölg et al.
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