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Sensors 2008, 8(5), 3355-3383; doi:10.3390/s8053355

Optical Remote Sensing of Glacier Characteristics: A Review with Focus on the Himalaya

Department of Geography, University of Colorado, UCB 260, Boulder CO, 80309, USA
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, UCB 450, Boulder CO, 80309, USA
National Snow and Ice Data Center, CIRES, University of Colorado, UCB 449, Boulder CO, 80309, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 5 February 2008 / Accepted: 19 May 2008 / Published: 23 May 2008
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The increased availability of remote sensing platforms with appropriate spatial and temporal resolution, global coverage and low financial costs allows for fast, semi-automated, and cost-effective estimates of changes in glacier parameters over large areas. Remote sensing approaches allow for regular monitoring of the properties of alpine glaciers such as ice extent, terminus position, volume and surface elevation, from which glacier mass balance can be inferred. Such methods are particularly useful in remote areas with limited field-based glaciological measurements. This paper reviews advances in the use of visible and infrared remote sensing combined with field methods for estimating glacier parameters, with emphasis on volume/area changes and glacier mass balance. The focus is on the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) sensor and its applicability for monitoring Himalayan glaciers. The methods reviewed are: volumetric changes inferred from digital elevation models (DEMs), glacier delineation algorithms from multi-spectral analysis, changes in glacier area at decadal time scales, and AAR/ELA methods used to calculate yearly mass balances. The current limitations and on-going challenges in using remote sensing for mapping characteristics of mountain glaciers also discussed, specifically in the context of the Himalaya.
Keywords: remote sensing; ASTER; DEM; glaciers; mass balance; Himalaya remote sensing; ASTER; DEM; glaciers; mass balance; Himalaya
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Racoviteanu, A.E.; Williams, M.W.; Barry, R.G. Optical Remote Sensing of Glacier Characteristics: A Review with Focus on the Himalaya. Sensors 2008, 8, 3355-3383.

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