Rapid glacial retreat on the Kamchatka Peninsula during the early 21st century
Monitoring glacier fluctuations provides insights into changing glacial environments and recent climate change. The availability of satellite imagery offers the opportunity to view these changes for remote and inaccessible regions. Gaining an understanding of the ongoing changes in such regions is vital if a complete picture of glacial fluctuations globally is to be established. Here, satellite imagery (Landsat 7, 8 and ASTER) is used to conduct a multi-annual remote sensing survey of glacier fluctuations on the Kamchatka Peninsula (eastern Russia) over the 2000–2014 period. Glacier margins were digitised manually and reveal that, in 2000, the peninsula was occupied by 673 glaciers, with a total glacier surface area of 775.7 ± 27.9 km 2. By 2014, the number of glaciers had increased to 738 (reflecting the fragmentation of larger glaciers), but their surface area had decreased to 592.9 ± 20.4 km 2. This represents a ∼ 24 % decline in total glacier surface area between 2000 and 2014 and a notable acceleration in the rate of area loss since the late 20th century. Analysis of possible controls indicates that these glacier fluctuations were likely governed by variations in climate (particularly rising summer temperatures), though the response of individual glaciers was modulated by other (non-climatic) factors, principally glacier size, local shading and debris cover.