Quantifying Himalayan glacier change from the 1960s to early 2000s, using corona, glims and aster geospatial Data
Since reaching their LIAMs, Himalayan glaciers have generally undergone a period of retreat, evident from large moraines left at former ice limits. Currently, however, detailed assessments of Himalayan glacier fluctuations over the past century are limited and fail to compare spatially or temporally to records available in Central Europe, North America and Scandinavia. Consequently, the variability and magnitude of glacial change across the Himalayas, which is a key indicator of climatic change in this region, is yet to be fully understood. \ud \ud Against a background of poor data availability, Corona imagery and historic GLIMS glacier outlines now offer an opportunity to assess glacier extent for regions of the Himalayas pre-1980. Corona imagery, acquired by a US space-borne reconnaissance mission operational from 1960 to 1970, represents a particularly unique dataset offering high resolution imagery (~1.8 m) with stereo-scopic capabilities. Utilising Corona imagery, there is an opportunity to produce detailed maps of Himalayan glacier extent and extract ice surface elevation estimations, in some instances, for the first time. Despite having been de-classified in 1995, the use of Corona data in the Himalayas has been neglected, mainly because of orthorectification challenges related to its unique geometric distortions. Hence, there remains a need to develop a low cost and easily replicable method of accurately orthorectifying Corona imagery enabling its use as a large-scale glacier mapping tool in the Himalayas. In response to this need, Corona images are orthorectified in this study through the use of: (1) a non-metric photogrammetry approach; and (2) horizontal and vertical reference data acquired from ortho-ASTER imagery and the freely available ASTER GDEM. \ud \ud By comparing glacier measurements derived from Corona imagery, GLIMS data and more contemporary ASTER data, changes in glacier area, length and in some instances volume, between the 1960/70s and early 2000s, were quantified for glaciers selected within four study areas located in Uttarakhand, India and Central Nepal. Importantly, this cross-regional glacier change dataset both complements and enhances current Himalayan records. Most notably, results indicate that glaciers selected in the Bhagirathi and Pindar/Kali basins, Uttarakhand, reduced in area by a relatively small 7.97±0.29% and 7.54±0.26%, respectively. Contrastingly, glaciers selected in the more easterly located Seti and Trisula basins reduced in area by 29.78±0.2% and 50.55±0.08%, respectively. Comparisons of Corona DEM (derived from Corona stereo-pairs) and ASTER Global DEM elevations at the terminus regions of four glaciers revealed extensive surface lowering, ranging from 87±27 m to 142±27 m. For Corona processing, the methods applied were shown to orthorectify Corona images to an accuracy that allows comparable glacier outlines to be delineated, further demonstrating the mapping potential of this dataset. However, for Corona DEM extraction, the use of ASTER spatial control data was shown to be inadequate and the presence of large vertical errors in the DEMs generated hindered the measurement of glacier volume change. For this purpose, it is therefore recommended that the methods developed are tested with the use of very high resolution spatial control data.
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