Articles | Volume 4, issue 3
23 Aug 2010
 | 23 Aug 2010

Assessing high altitude glacier thickness, volume and area changes using field, GIS and remote sensing techniques: the case of Nevado Coropuna (Peru)

P. Peduzzi, C. Herold, and W. Silverio

Abstract. Higher temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns have induced an acute decrease in Andean glaciers, thus leading to additional stress on water supply. To adapt to climate changes, local governments need information on the rate of glacier area and volume losses and on current ice thickness. Remote sensing analyses of Coropuna glacier (Peru) delineate an acute glaciated area decline between 1955 and 2008. We tested how volume changes can be estimated with remote sensing and GIS techniques using digital elevation models derived from both topographic maps and satellite images. Ice thickness was measured in 2004 using a Ground Penetrating Radar coupled with a 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 regression techniques. The results revealed a significant glacier volume loss; however the uncertainty is higher than the measured volume loss. We also provided an estimate of the remaining volume. The field study provided the scientific evidence needed by COPASA, a local Peruvian NGO, and GTZ, the German international cooperation agency, in order to alert local governments and communities and guide them in adopting new climate change adaptation policies.