Remotely sensed debris thickness mapping of Bara Shigri Glacier, Indian Himalaya

Simone Schauwecker, Mario Rohrer, Christian Huggel, Anil Kulkarni, Al Ramanathan, Nadine Salzmann, Markus Stoffel, Benjamin Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Despite the important role of supraglacial debris in ablation, knowledge of debris thickness on Himalayan glaciers is sparse. A recently developed method based on reanalysis data and thermal band satellite imagery has proved to be potentially suitable for debris thickness estimation without the need for detailed field data. In this study, we further develop the method and discuss possibilities and limitations arising from its application to a glacier in the Himalaya with scarce in situ data. Surface temperature patterns are consistent for 13 scenes of Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) and Landsat 7 imagery and correlate well with incoming shortwave radiation and air temperature. We use an energy-balance approach to subtract these radiation or air temperature effects, in order to estimate debris thickness patterns as a function of surface temperature. Both incoming shortwave and longwave radiation are estimated with reasonable accuracy when applying parameterizations and reanalysis data. However, the model likely underestimates debris thickness, probably due to incorrect representation of vertical debris temperature profiles, the rate of heat storage and turbulent sensible heat flux. Moreover, the uncertainty of the result was found to increase significantly with thicker debris, a promising result since ablation is enhanced by thin debris of 1–2 cm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-688
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number228
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2015


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