Articles | Volume 65, issue 2
30 Jun 2010
 | 30 Jun 2010

Towards a global glacier inventory from satellite data

F. Paul

Abstract. There is a major need for a complete and detailed global glacier inventory that is freely available in a digital format (vector outlines with attribute data) for all kinds of glaciological assessments, e.g. sea level rise, hydro-power, run-off and natural hazards. However, such an inventory is not yet available and the uncertainties due to the missing data for related calculations are large. While the existing World Glacier Inventory offers tabular data that were compiled from aerial photography and maps during the 1960s to 1970s for about 72'000 glaciers, current efforts are being exerted within the framework of the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) initiative to compile vector outlines from satellite data and combine them with digital elevation models (DEMs). At this point, inventory data from about 100'000 of the estimated 160'000 glaciers are available in the GLIMS database. Due to the now free availability of satellite data from the United States Geological Survey's archive and near global DEMs with appropriate spatial resolution, a globally complete and detailed glacier inventory appears viable. This contribution provides an overview of past and ongoing activities related to the creation of glacier inventory data from satellite sensors, along with the methods employed and the challenges encountered in different parts of the world.