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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  27 Oct 2020

27 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

The potentials of high-resolution photogrammetry for analyzing glacier retreat in the Ötztal Alps, Austria

Joschka Geissler1,4, Christoph Mayer2, Juilson Jubanski1, Ulrich Münzer3, and Florian Siegert1 Joschka Geissler et al.
  • 13D Reality Maps GmbH, Dingolfinger Str. 9, Munich, 81673, Germany
  • 2Bavarian Academy of Science, Geodesy and Glaciology, Alfons-Goppel Str. 11, Munich, 80539, Germany
  • 3Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Section Geology (remote sensing), Luisenstr. 37, 80333 Munich, Germany
  • 4Faculty of Environment and Natural Sciences, Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Friedrichstr.39, 79098 Freiburg, Germany

Abstract. Glaciers all over the world experience an increasing mass loss during recent decades due to change in the global climate. This leads to considerable environmental consequences in the densely populated Alps and many other mountain ranges in the world. We used high-resolution aerial photogrammetry within the AlpSenseBench project to investigate glacier retreat in great spatial and temporal detail in the Ötztaler Alps, a significant glacier area in Austria. Long-term in situ glaciological observations are available for this region, and a multitemporal time series of digital aerial images with a spatial resolution of 20 cm acquired over a period of 10 years exists. Glacier retreat of all 25 glaciers in the region, including the Vernagtferner, was analyzed by investigating glacier extent and surface elevation changes, derived from the aerial images by digital surface model (DSM) generation. Due to different acquisition dates of the large scale photogrammetric surveys and the glaciological data, a correction was established using a dedicated unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) survey across the major part of the Vernagtferner. This allowed us to compare the mass balances from geodetic and glaciological techniques, which reveals the potentials of the combination of these two techniques for gaining a better insight into glacier changes and its spatial distribution. The results show a clear increase of glacier mass loss for all glaciers in the region, including the Vernagtferner over the last decade. Additionally, the influence of debris-cover on mass balance, as well as the magnitude of dynamic processes, could be quantified. The comparison of geodetic elevation differences and the interpolated glaciological data reveals that there exists a high potential in detecting local peculiarities of mass balance distribution and for correcting small scale deviations, not revealed in the interpolated glaciological information. The availability of high resolution multi-temporal digital aerial imagery for most of the glaciers in the Alps will provide a more comprehensive and detailed analysis of climate change-induced glacier retreat.

Joschka Geissler et al.

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Joschka Geissler et al.

Joschka Geissler et al.


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Latest update: 27 Nov 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This study demonstrates the high potential of aerial images and the resulting DSM’s for analyzing glacier retreat with high spatial resolution. We analyze height changes of 25 glaciers within the Ötztaler Alps, focusing on the Vernagtferner. A (spatial) comparison of photogrammetric results and glaciological in-situ measurements is performed that reveals regions of anomalous mass balance conditions and allows estimates of the imbalance between mass balance and ice dynamics.
This study demonstrates the high potential of aerial images and the resulting DSM’s for...