EGU2020-3901, updated on 09 Jan 2024
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Identifying and mapping very small mountain glaciers on coarse to high-resolution imagery

Joshua Leigh1, Chris Stokes1, Rachel Carr2, Ian Evans1, Liss Andreassen3, and David Evans1
Joshua Leigh et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, UK (;;;
  • 2School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK (
  • 3Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), Oslo, Norway (

Small mountain glaciers are an important part of the cryosphere and tend to respond rapidly to climate warming. Historically, mapping very small glaciers (generally considered to be <0.5 km2) using satellite imagery has often been subjective due to the difficulty in differentiating them from perennial snowpatches. For this reason, most scientists implement minimum size-thresholds (typically 0.01–0.05 km2). However, when mapping on high-resolution imagery (<1 m) with minimal seasonal snow cover, glaciers <0.05 km2 and even <0.01 km2 are readily identifiable and using a minimum threshold may be inappropriate. For these cases, we have developed a set of criteria to enable the identification of very small glaciers and classify them as certain, probable, or possible. Our identification criteria are based on detailed ice surface structures (e.g. evidence of flow banding and crevasses) and diagnostic glacial landforms (e.g. moraines). Implementation of this scoring system should facilitate a more consistent and objective approach to identifying and mapping very small glaciers on high-resolution imagery, helping to produce more comprehensive and accurate glacier inventories.

How to cite: Leigh, J., Stokes, C., Carr, R., Evans, I., Andreassen, L., and Evans, D.: Identifying and mapping very small mountain glaciers on coarse to high-resolution imagery, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-3901,, 2020.


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