Compiling a new glacier inventory for southeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau from Landsat and Palsar data

Linghong Ke, Xiaoli Ding, Lei Zhang, Jun Hu, C. K. Shum, Zhong Lu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Glacier change has been recognized as an important climate variable due to its sensitive response to climate change. Although there are a large number of glaciers distributed over the southeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the region is poorly represented in glacier databases due to seasonal snow cover and frequent cloud cover. Here, we present an improved glacier inventory for this region by combining Landsat observations acquired over 2011-13 (Landsat 8/OLI and Landsat TM/ETM+), coherence images from Advanced Land Observing Satellite Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar images and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) DEM. We present a semi-automated scheme for integrating observations from multi-temporal Landsat scenes to mitigate cloud obscuration. Further, the clean-ice observations, together with coherence information, slope constraints, vegetation cover and water classification information extracted from the Landsat scenes, are integrated to determine the debris-covered glacier area. After manual editing, we derive a new glacier inventory containing 6892 glaciers >0.02 km2, covering a total area of 6566 ± 197 km2. This new glacier inventory indicates gross overestimation in glacier area (over 30%) in previously published glacier inventories, and reveals various spatial characteristics of glaciers in the region. Our inventory can be used as a baseline dataset for future studies including glacier change assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-592
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number233
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Debris-covered glaciers
  • Glacier delineation
  • Glacier mapping
  • Mountain glaciers
  • Remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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