Derivation and analysis of a complete modern-date glacier inventory for Alaska and northwest Canada


We present a detailed, complete glacier inventory for Alaska and neighboring Canada using multi-sensor satellite data from 2000 to 2011. For each glacier, we derive outlines and 51 variables, including center-line lengths, outline types and debris cover. We find 86 723 km2 of glacier area (27 109 glaciers >0.025 km2), ∼12% of the global glacierized area outside ice sheets. Of this area 12.0% is drained by 39 marine-terminating glaciers (74 km of tidewater margin), and 19.3% by 148 lake- and river-terminating glaciers (420 km of lake-/river margin). The overall debris cover is 11%, with considerable differences among regions, ranging from 1.4% in the Kenai Mountains to 28% in the Central Alaska Range. Comparison of outlines from different sources on >2500 km2 of glacierized area yields a total area difference of ∼10%, emphasizing the difficulties in accurately delineating debris-covered glaciers. Assuming fully correlated (systematic) errors, uncertainties in area reach 6% for all Alaska glaciers, but further analysis is needed to explore adequate error correlation scales. Preliminary analysis of the glacier database yields a new set of well-constrained area/length scaling parameters and shows good agreement between our area–altitude distributions and previously established synthetic hypsometries. The new glacier database will be valuable to further explore relations between glacier variables and glacier behavior.

In Journal of Glaciology
Sam Herreid
Sam Herreid
glaciologist, runner, musician, writer

My research interests include rock debris on glaciers, advancing regional to global scale glacier modeling and restructuring the financing of climate science.