A complete glacier inventory of the Antarctic Peninsula based on Landsat 7 images from 2000 to 2002 and other preexisting data sets

Jacqueline Huber, Alison J. Cook, Frank Paul, Michael Zemp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) potentially make a large contribution to sea level rise. However, this contribution has been difficult to estimate since no complete glacier inventory (outlines, attributes, separation from the ice sheet) is available. This work fills the gap and presents a new glacier inventory of the AP north of 70°S, based on digitally combining preexisting data sets with geographic information system (GIS) techniques. Rock outcrops have been removed from the glacier basin outlines of Cook et al. (2014) by intersection with the latest layer of the Antarctic Digital Database (Burton-Johnson et al., 2016). Glacier-specific topographic parameters (e.g., mean elevation, slope and aspect) as well as hypsometry have been calculated from the DEM of Cook et al. (2012). We also assigned connectivity levels to all glaciers following the concept by Rastner et al. (2012). Moreover, the bedrock data set of Huss and Farinotti (2014) enabled us to add ice thickness and volume for each glacier. The new inventory is available from the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) database (doi:10.7265/N5V98602) and consists of 1589 glaciers covering an area of 95 273 km2, slightly more than the 89 720 km2 covered by glaciers surrounding the Greenland Ice Sheet. Hence, compared to the preexisting data set of Cook et al. (2014), this data set covers a smaller area and one glacier less due to the intersection with the rock outcrop data set. The total estimated ice volume is 34 590 km3, of which one-third is below sea level. The hypsometric curve has a bimodal shape due to the unique topography of the AP, which consists mainly of ice caps with outlet glaciers. Most of the glacierized area is located at 200-500 m a.s.l., with a secondary maximum at 1500-1900 m. Approximately 63% of the area is drained by marine-terminating glaciers, and ice-shelf tributary glaciers cover 35% of the area. This combination indicates a high sensitivity of the glaciers to climate change for several reasons: (1) only slightly rising equilibrium-line altitudes would expose huge additional areas to ablation, (2) rising ocean temperatures increase melting of marine terminating glaciers, and (3) ice shelves have a buttressing effect on their feeding glaciers and their collapse would alter glacier dynamics and strongly enhance ice loss (Rott et al., 2011). The new inventory should facilitate modeling of the related effects using approaches tailored to glaciers for a more accurate determination of their future evolution and contribution to sea level rise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-131
Number of pages17
JournalEarth System Science Data
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2017


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