Remote sensing of glacier change in West Greenland: accounting for the occurrence of surge-type glaciers

Michele Citterio, Frank Paul, Andreas P. Ahlstrøm, Hans F. Jepsen, Anker Weidick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Automated glacier mapping from thresholded band ratios of multispectral satellite data is a well-established technique to update glacier inventories over large and remote regions. The local glaciers and ice caps on Greenland are of particular interest for such efforts, as they have been only partly mapped, mainly during the 1940s-60s, and their potential contribution to global sea-level rise could be large. Here we use three Landsat ETM+ scenes from 2001 covering Disko Island (Qeqertarsuaq) and the Nuussuaq and Svartenhuk peninsulas, West Greenland, to map the glacier extent in 2001 of 1172 entities. We also manually digitize Little Ice Age (LIA) extents from clearly visible trimlines for a subsample of 500 entities. In this region with numerous surge-type glaciers, the related area-change calculation is challenging and we consider different samples with and without known surging glaciers. For the three regions the mean area changes are -28%, -20% and -23%, respectively, when known surge-type glaciers are excluded. The glaciers on smaller islands and peninsulas closer to the margin of the ice sheet show a lower mean area change of -15%. Moreover, lower (-16%) and upper (-21 %) bounds are calculated for the overall area changes in the entire region between the LIA and 2001 using different upscaling assumptions. Cumulative length changes since the LIA are found to be slightly lower for surge-type glaciers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-80
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number53
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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