Faculté des sciences

The New swiss glacier inventory SGI2010: relevance of Using high-resolution source data in areas dominated by very small glaciers

Fischer, Mauro ; Huss, Matthias ; Barboux, Chloé ; Hoelzle, Martin

In: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 2014, vol. 46, no. 4, p. 933–945

In view of the rapid and accelerating glacier retreat observed in the European Alps during the last decades, the repeated creation of glacier inventories is important to understand the spatio-temporal variability of glacier changes and to support modeling studies. This article presents the latest glacier inventory for the entire Swiss Alps (SGI2010) derived by manual digitization from... More

Add to personal list
    Summary
    In view of the rapid and accelerating glacier retreat observed in the European Alps during the last decades, the repeated creation of glacier inventories is important to understand the spatio-temporal variability of glacier changes and to support modeling studies. This article presents the latest glacier inventory for the entire Swiss Alps (SGI2010) derived by manual digitization from high-resolution (25 cm) aerial orthophotographs acquired between 2008 and 2011. Its accuracy is assessed by comparing the extents of clean, snow-and/or debris-covered glaciers derived from multiple digitization by several experts. The potential of more precise mapping of debris-covered glaciers is pointed out through the combination of aerial orthophotos with Differential Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (DInSAR) techniques. In order to investigate the accuracy of glacier outlines obtained from medium-resolution satellite remote sensing imagery, a Landsat derived 2003 inventory is directly compared to all glaciers of the eastern Swiss Alps mapped with 2003 aerial orthoimagery. For the Swiss Alps, the total glacierized area mapped for 2010 is 944.3 ±24.1 km². Resulting area changes are -362.6 km² (-27.7%, or -0.75% a⁻¹) between 1973 and 2010. It is shown that satellite remote sensing techniques using medium-resolution source data misclassified more than 25% in area of very small glaciers (<0.5 km²). Therefore, use of high-resolution satellite or airborne imagery for future inventory creation in areas dominated by very small glaciers is recommended.