GRID product detail

Assessing high altitude glacier volume change and remaining thickness using cost-efficient scientific techniques: the case of Nevado Coropuna (Peru)


Duration: October 2009 - on-going

Higher temperature and change in precipitation patterns have induced an acute decrease in Andean glaciers, thus leading to an additional stress on water supply. To adapt to climate changes, local governments need information on the rate of glacier volume losses and on current ice thickness. We show how volume changes can be accurately estimated in remote areas using readily available low-cost digital elevation models derived from both topographic maps and satellite images. They were used for estimating the volume changes over the Coropuna glacier (Peru) from 1955 to 2002. Ice thickness was measured in 2004 using a georadar coupled with Ground Positioning System during a field expedition. It provided profiles of ice thickness on different slopes, orientations and altitudes. These were used to model the current glacier volume using Geographical Information System and statistical multiple regressions techniques. Computers were modified to resists to high altitude (6500 m) temperatures and low pressure conditions. The results delineated a significant glacier volume loss and provided an estimate of the remaining ice. It provided the scientific evidence needed by local Peruvian NGO, COPASA, and the German Cooperation Program in order to alert local governments and communities and for enforcing new climate change adaptation policies.

Data credit(s): Walter Silverio (UNEP/DEWA/GRID-Geneva), Christian Herold (UNEP/DEWA/GRID-Geneva), Pascal Peduzzi (UNEP/DEWA/GRID-Geneva)

GRID unit: Global Change and Vulnerability

UNEP region: Latin America and the Caribbean/South America

UNEP priorities:  Climate Change, Disasters and Conflicts

english version (2009, Size:0Mb)