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Climate, Water, and Carbon Program

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Remote Sensing of Tropical Glaciers

Tropical Andean glacier recession is an example of a global climate change phenomenon with profound local consequences for water resources. To evaluate the hydrological storage and climatic implications of glacier recession, the actual mass of ice involved is a critical but problematic variable. With consideration of average ice density, the mass of water involved in the phase changes of glacier ice can be computed from volume, facilitating the appropriate equations of thermodynamic mass and energy fluxes (i.e. Paterson, 1994; Oerlemans, 1994). Moreover, to accurately forecast the impact of glacier recession on hydrological resources, equivalent water volumes from ice loss must be quantified. Relatively few glaciers, especially in the remote tropical highlands, feature mass balance monitoring and systematic mapping efforts are rare. Yet satellite and airborne altimetry, including ALSM, provide the opportunity to investigate the volume and spatial nature of Andean glacier recession with high resolution digital elevation data (Hopkinson et al., 2001).

Contact: Bryan Mark