boost glacier observations from space

The WGMS is in charge of compiling changes in glacier length, area, volume, and mass, primarily based on in-situ measurements. However, an increasing number of glacier-related research projects nowadays produce data from mostly space-borne remote sensing sensors. Combined with the existing in-situ network, these studies complement the multi-level glacier monitoring strategy of GTN-G. The WGMS actively fosters glacier observations from space through the following initiatives:

ESA Climate Change Initiative

In the framework of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, the WGMS has the responsibility of implementing Option 5 to the “Glaciers_cci” project. Option 5 runs from Oct 2015 to Sep 2017 and aims at making remotely sensed data of geodetic glacier changes available to the scientific community in a standardized format.

Within the project’s framework, the WGMS establishes the required expertise and extends the existing database infrastructure with a pilot study to house both glacier-wide and gridded data on glacier elevation changes based on known studies from the body of literature. Semi-automated algorithms are under development for adding existing and upcoming data to the Fluctuations of Glaciers (FoG) database of WGMS. Already in the ongoing development phase data are incorporated and made available.

Major Goals

  • Establish the expertise and infrastructure to integrate remote sensing data into FoG
  • Substantially increase the number of geodetic glacier mass balances in FoG
  • Adapt the Cogley literature database to improve FoG literature referencing
  • Establish a database link between FoG and GLIMS

cci Logo

Copernicus Climate Change Service

Copernicus is Europe’s flagship programme to monitor the Earth and her many ecosystems (Copernicus). Copernicus delivers freely accessible operational data and information services in six thematic areas (land, marine, atmosphere, climate change, emergency management, security) based on the Sentinel satellites and other contributing space missions as well as “in-situ” (meaning local or on-site) measurement sensors on land, sea and air to provide huge amounts of earth observation data.
The WGMS and the Department of Geography, University of Zurich, together with Gamma Remote Sensing, the University of Oslo and the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) are contributing glacier data and information to the Copernicus Climate Change Service C3S. Starting in 2017, we are integrating a global glacier inventory (the RGI 5.0) and the available glacier volume and mass change series from the Fluctuations of Glaciers (FoG) database into the C3S Climate Data Store. Furthermore, C3S allows improving and extending the global glacier inventory and will boost the compilation and computation of glacier volume changes using space borne sensors.

TanDEM-X for glacier research and monitoring

TanDEM-X together with the TerraSAR-X satellite is a radar-based Earth observation mission conducted jointly by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Airbus Defence and Space. Orbiting the Earth at an altitude of around 500 km, the two nearly identical satellites aim at generating an accurate three-dimensional image of the Earth’s surface with 12 m spatial resolution and a vertical accuracy better than 2 m. The WGMS encouraged its network of Principal Investigators to participate in a first scientific exploitation of the global DEM product of the TanDEM-X mission for glacier monitoring: here

Pléiades Glacier Observatory

Launched by the French Space Agency (CNES) in December 2011, Pléiades is a constellation of two satellites providing optical images of any point on the globe. Products include ortho-images and digital terrain models with sub-metre resolution and precision, respectively. In coordination with LEGOS and the WGMS, glaciologists can acquire stereo data of selected benchmark glaciers at the end of the melt season. So far, two acquisition campaigns (fall 2016, spring 2017) are completed and a third (fall 2017) one is in preparation.





last change 23/06/2017