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Geosciences 2018, 8(5), 174; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8050174

Mapping the Loss of Mt. Kenya’s Glaciers: An Example of the Challenges of Satellite Monitoring of Very Small Glaciers

1
Department of Geography and Regional Science, University of Graz, Heinrichstrasse 36, 8010 Graz, Austria
2
Institute of Geography, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
3
Austrian Alpine Club, Olympiastrasse 37, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
4
Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 March 2018 / Revised: 5 May 2018 / Accepted: 5 May 2018 / Published: 11 May 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Land Ice)
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Abstract

Since the last complete glacier mapping of Mt. Kenya in 2004, strong glacier retreat and glacier disintegration have been reported. Here, we compile and present a new glacier inventory of Mt. Kenya to document recent glacier change. Glacier area and mass changes were derived from an orthophoto and digital elevation model extracted from Pléiades tri-stereo satellite images. We additionally explore the feasibility of using freely available imagery (Sentinel-2) and an alternative elevation model (TanDEM-X-DEM) for monitoring very small glaciers in complex terrain, but both proved to be inappropriate; Sentinel-2 because of its too coarse horizontal resolution compared to the very small glaciers, and TanDEM-X-DEM because of errors in the steep summit area of Mt. Kenya. During 2004–2016, the total glacier area on Mt. Kenya decreased by 121.0 × 10³ m² (44%). The largest glacier (Lewis) lost 62.8 × 10³ m² (46%) of its area and 1.35 × 10³ m³ (57%) of its volume during the same period. The mass loss of Lewis Glacier has been accelerating since 2010 due to glacier disintegration, which has led to the emergence of a rock outcrop splitting the glacier in two parts. If the current retreat rates prevail, Mt. Kenya’s glaciers will be extinct before 2030, implying the cessation of the longest glacier monitoring record of the tropics. View Full-Text
Keywords: glacier monitoring; glacier inventory; satellite remote sensing; Pléiades satellite images; Sentinel-2; TanDEM-X; DEM; Mount Kenya; tropical glacier glacier monitoring; glacier inventory; satellite remote sensing; Pléiades satellite images; Sentinel-2; TanDEM-X; DEM; Mount Kenya; tropical glacier
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Prinz, R.; Heller, A.; Ladner, M.; Nicholson, L.I.; Kaser, G. Mapping the Loss of Mt. Kenya’s Glaciers: An Example of the Challenges of Satellite Monitoring of Very Small Glaciers. Geosciences 2018, 8, 174.

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