Changes of the tropical glaciers throughout Peru between 2000 and 2016 – mass balance and area fluctuations

Seehaus, Thorsten; Malz, Philipp; Sommer, Christian; Lippl, Stefan; Cochachin, Alejo; Braun, Matthias

Glaciers in tropical regions are very sensitive to climatic variations and thus strongly affected by climate change. The majority of the tropical glaciers worldwide are located in the Peruvian Andes, which have shown significant ice loss in the last century. Here, we present the first multi-temporal, region-wide survey of geodetic mass balances and glacier area fluctuations throughout Peru covering the period 2000–2016. Glacier extents are derived from Landsat imagery by performing automatic glacier delineation based on a combination of the NDSI and band ratio method and final manual inspection and correction. The mapping of debris-covered glacier extents is supported by synthetic aperture radar (SAR) coherence information. A total glacier area loss of -548.5±65.7 km2 (−29 %, −34.3 km2 a−1) is obtained for the study period. Using interferometric satellite SAR acquisitions, bi-temporal geodetic mass balances are derived. An average specific mass balance of -296±41 kg m−2 a−1 is found throughout Peru for the period 2000–2016. However, there are strong regional and temporal differences in the mass budgets ranging from 45±97 to -752±452 kg m−2 a−1. The ice loss increased towards the end of the observation period. Between 2013 and 2016, a retreat of the glacierized area of -203.8±65.7 km2 (−16 %, −101.9 km2 a−1) is mapped and the average mass budget amounts to -660±178 kg m−2 a−1. The glacier changes revealed can be attributed to changes in the climatic settings in the study region, derived from ERA-Interim reanalysis data and the Oceanic Nino Index. The intense El Niño activities in 2015/16 are most likely the trigger for the increased change rates in the time interval 2013–2016. Our observations provide fundamental information on the current dramatic glacier changes for local authorities and for the calibration and validation of glacier change projections.

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Seehaus, Thorsten / Malz, Philipp / Sommer, Christian / et al: Changes of the tropical glaciers throughout Peru between 2000 and 2016 – mass balance and area fluctuations. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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