Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World

Fact Sheet 2005-3056
By:  and 



In 1978, the USGS began the preparation of the 11-chapter USGS Professional Paper 1386, 'Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World'. Between 1979 and 1981, optimum satellite images were distributed to a team of 70 scientists, representing 25 nations and 45 institutions, who agreed to author sections of the Professional Paper concerning either a geographic area (chapters B-K) or a glaciological topic (included in Chapter A). The scientists used Landsat 1, 2, and 3 multispectral scanner (MSS) images and Landsat 2 and 3 return beam vidicon (RBV) images to inventory the areal occurrence of glacier ice on our planet within the boundaries of the spacecrafts' coverage (between about 82? north and south latitudes). Some later contributors also used Landsat 4 and 5 MSS and Thematic Mapper, Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper-Plus (ETM+), and other satellite images. In addition to analyzing images of a specific geographic area, each author was asked to summarize up-to-date information about the glaciers within each area and compare their present-day areal distribution with reliable historical information (from published maps, reports, and photographs) about their past extent. Because of the limitations of Landsat images for delineating or monitoring small glaciers in some geographic areas (the result of inadequate spatial resolution, lack of suitable seasonal coverage, or absence of coverage), some information on the areal distribution of small glaciers was derived from ancillary sources, including other satellite images. Completion of the atlas will provide an accurate regional inventory of the areal extent of glaciers on our planet during a relatively narrow time interval (1972-1981).

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2005-3056
DOI 10.3133/fs20053056
Edition Revised 2008, Supersedes Fact Sheets 130-02, 133-99 & 009-94
Year Published 2005
Language ENGLISH
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) U.S. Geological Survey
Description 2 p.