Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) is an international consortium established to acquire satellite images of the world's glaciers, analyse them for glacier extent and changes, and assess change data for causes and implications for people and the environment. Although GLIMS is making use of multiple remote-sensing systems, ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and reflection Radiometer) is optimized for many needed observations, including mapping of glacier boundaries and material facies, and tracking of surface dynamics, such as flow vector fields and supraglacial lake development. Software development by GLIMS is geared toward mapping clean-ice and debris-covered glaciers; terrain classification emphasizing snow, ice, water, and admixtures of ice with rock debris; multitemporal change analysis; visualization of images and derived data; and interpretation and archiving of derived data. A global glacier database has been designed at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC, Boulder, Colorado); parameters are compatible with and expanded from those of the World Glacier Inventory (WGI). These technology efforts are summarized here, but will be presented in detail elsewhere. Our presentation here pertains to one broad question: How can ASTER and other satellite multispectral data be used to map, monitor, and characterize the state and dynamics of glaciers and to understand their responses to 20th and 21st century climate change? Our sampled results are not yet glaciologically or climatically representative. Our early results, while indicating complexity, are generally consistent with the glaciology community's conclusion that climate change is spurring glacier responses around the world (mainly retreat). Whether individual glaciers are advancing or retreating, the aggregate average of glacier change must be climatic in origin, as nonclimatic variations average out. We have discerned regional spatial patterns in glaciological response behavior; these patterns are best attributed to climate-change variability and to regional differences in glacier size and response times. In many cases, glacier length changes under-represent the magnitude of glacier ablation, because thinning (sometimes without immediate length changes) is also important. An expanded systematic, uniform analysis of many more glaciers is needed to isolate the glacier response components due to climatic and nonclimatic perturbations, to produce quantitative measures of regional variation in glacier changes, and to predict future regional glacier trends relevant to water resources, glaciological hazards, and global sea level. This comprehensive assessment (to be completed in stages) is expected to lend a critically needed filter to identify successful climate models that explain recent glacier changes and change patterns (and hence, are apt to describe future changes) and to eliminate unsuccessful models. ?? 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Multispectral imaging contributions to global land ice measurements from space