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Satellite-based western Canadian glacier inventory

By Tobias Bolch, Brian Menounos and Roger Wheate


We utilized Landsat imagery ~2005 and existing ice polygons from provincial mapping ~1985 to produce a glacier inventory for western Canada south of 60 º N. We corrected errors in the mapping from 1985 due to late lying snow and debris cover using Landsat TM and the provincial digital terrain model (DTM) based on the same aerial images as the ice polygons. The 2005 glacier vectors were produced from a band ratio (TM3/TM5) and the 1985 outlines as a clip layer. Misclassified pixels were corrected with water and slope detection algorithms. Final polygons were manually checked for errors. We also used the provincial DTM to split the glaciers into individual flow sheds. The estimated error in our method, determined by comparison of the digital vectors to those obtained through manual interpretation, is within 2.5%. Glacier cover in British Columbia and Alberta declined by 11.5% over the period 1985-2005. The annual retreat rate 0.6% a-1 is comparable to rates reported in other mountain ranges. Work is underway to compare these rates of ice loss to climate change over the period of study

Topics: glacier inventory, glacier recession, remote sensing, Geography
Publisher: Western CEDAR
Year: 2008
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