We live in a time of significant climate change, when almost all regions of the world experiencing accelerated and ongoing warming in recent decades. Few natural environments testify to this long-term warming trend as tangibly as the world’s mountain glacier systems. Water from mountain glaciers, permafrost and seasonal snow pack accounts for more than 80% of the total fresh water on Earth and is the largest contributor to rivers and ground water over major portions of the middle and high latitudes. Large alpine glacier systems in central Asia (Tibet, Himalaya, Karakorum, Pamir, Tien Shan, Altai-Sayan) and those at high latitudes, such as the massive tidewater glacier systems in Alaska, are also thinning and retreating, but these systems have the capacity to weather a multi-decadal warm spell.
One of the best information of past climate and environmental changes lie in the glacier’s ice, where we can recover hundred to thousands of years records of pre-industrial or even the prehistoric time through the isotope-geochemical depositions in precipitated snow. Ice-core records can be linked with changes in atmospheric circulation, air temperature, snow accumulation, atmospheric composition, marine and continental biogenic activity, aerosol loading/volcanic eruptions, continental dust source regions, forest fire activity, and anthropogenic emissions.
Over the last two decades satellite Remote Sensing (RS) has opened the possibility of data acquisition at regular intervals, and operational as well as research-oriented satellites have provided information on glaciers and snow cover. The Landsat and later the Terra/ASTER systems, in particular, are the sources of data for hydrological and glaciological research at the scale of alpine drainage basins. From these satellite measurements, we can measure glacier and snow-covered area temporal and spatial distribution, rates of the glaciers and snow-cover depletion, and surface albedo.
Department of Geography
College of Science
P.O. Box 443025
Moscow, Idaho 83844-3025 U.S.A.
Tel: (208) 885-5888
Fax: (208) 885-5724