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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2016-222
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2016-222
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 15 Nov 2016

Submitted as: research article | 15 Nov 2016

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). The revised manuscript was not accepted.

A global high-resolution map of debris on glaciers derived from multi-temporal ASTER images

Orie Sasaki1, Omi Noguchi2, Yong Zhang2, Yukiko Hirabayashi2, and Shinjiro Kanae1 Orie Sasaki et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-2 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, 153-8550, Japan
  • 2Institute of Engineering Innovation, The University of Tokyo, 2-11-16 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-8656, Japan

Abstract. Supraglacial debris affects the response of glaciers to climate change by altering the reflectivity of solar radiation and conductive heat flux. To accurately assess the contribution of glacier melts to sea level rise, water resources and natural hazards, it is important to account for the effects of debris. However, due to the practical difficulties of global-scale field measurements, information regarding the spatial distribution of the thickness and thermal properties of debris on glaciers is limited; hence, the effects of debris on glacier melting are not explicitly taken into account in current global glacier models. In this study, we developed a dataset of the thermal resistance of debris on glaciers at 90-m resolution derived from multi-temporal satellite images and satellite-derived radiation data at the global scale, excluding Greenland, Antarctica, and some of the Arctic. We found that supraglacial debris covered 16.8 % of the entire analyzed glacial area. The highest debris cover percentage occurred in New Zealand, and the lowest was in Iceland. The area of thick debris (which suppresses glacier melting) was about two times that of thin debris (which accelerates glacier melting), indicating that the insulation effect of debris to inhibit glacier melting may dominate at the global scale. The distribution of debris was also related to the slope aspect of glaciers. Despite the limitations of this study, the resulting global distribution of the thermal resistance of debris can be incorporated into global glacier models, and hence it provides a solid basis for evaluating the effects of debris on glacial melting.

Orie Sasaki et al.
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Orie Sasaki et al.
Orie Sasaki et al.
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Short summary
Supraglacial debris is widely spread in many high-relief mountain regions and affects glacier melting rate and resulting runoff, however, there is no global dataset of debris information. Here we present a first global map of thermal resistance of debris on glaciers at 90 m by using multi-temporal satellite images and radiation data. We believe our result provides a solid basis for evaluating debris effects in global glacier models, which could refine future predictions of glacier meltwater.
Supraglacial debris is widely spread in many high-relief mountain regions and affects glacier...
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