The length of the glaciers in the world: a straightforward method for the automated calculation of glacier center lines

Horst Machguth, M. Huss, M. Huss

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Abstract

Glacier length is an important measure of glacier geometry but global glacier inventories are mostly lacking length data. Only recently semi-automated approaches to measure glacier length have been developed and applied regionally. Here we present 5 a first global assessment of glacier length using a fully automated method based on glacier surface slope, distance to the glacier margins and a set of trade-off functions. The method is developed for East Greenland, evaluated for the same area as well as for Alaska, and eventually applied to all ∼ 200000 glaciers around the globe. The evaluation
highlights accurately calculated glacier length where DEM quality is good (East
10 Greenland) and limited precision on low quality DEMs (parts of Alaska). Measured length of very small glaciers is subject to a certain level of ambiguity. The global calculation shows that only about 1.5% of all glaciers are longer than 10km with Bering Glacier (Alaska/Canada) being the longest glacier in the world at a length of 196 km. Based on model output we derive global and regional area-length scaling laws. Differences among regional scaling parameters appear to be related to characteristics of topography and glacier mass balance. The present study adds glacier length as a central parameter to global glacier inventories. Global and regional scaling laws might proof beneficial in conceptual glacier models.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Cryosphere Discussions
Volume8
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)2491-2528
Number of pages38
ISSN1994-0432
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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© Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License

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