Status of Glacier Monitoring of Greenland


Anker Weidick, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland


A review of basic requirements for monitoring Greenland glaciers is presented. The requirements of uniform and near-contemporaneous coverage by aerial photographs and map series have greatly improved over the past decade, and at the same time, satellite information has developed as an important tool for mapping Greenland glaciers and their changes.

"Conventional" inventory work has not kept up with this development. So far only ca. 5000 glacier units of West Greenland have been covered whereas there are an estimated minimum of ca. 15,000 glacier units in North and East Greenland still lacking. However, over the past decade a perusal of glaciers from the entire Greenland coastal area has been achieved. This was based on Landsat imagery, and shows the glacial characteristics from the different climatic regions of Greenland.*

From the work along these two lines of inventorying and from the current strong interest in local glaciers (due to their sensitivity to climatic change) it is clear that the paramount problem in Greenland is the determination of the total cover of local glaciers and hence, the delineation of the inland ice where it merges with local glaciers.

So far it is concluded that at least 10% of the total global coverage of local glaciers is to be found in Greenland, though this fact is often omitted from the literature.

First priority must therefore be to make an estimate of the local glacier coverage of Greenland on the basis of current 1:2.5 million map sheets, followed by a refinement of this figure by a detailed inventory of the lacking glaciers and supplying the individual glaciers with a proper address for filing of information and monitoring. The figure by the National Survey and Cadestre (KMS) is planned to be broken down into the glacier divisions suggested by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS).

*Wiedick, A., 1995, Greenland, with a section on Landsat images of Greenland, by Williams, R.S., Jr., and Ferrigno, J.G., Satellite image atlas of glaciers of the world (Williams, R.S., Jr., and Ferrigno, J.G., editors): U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1386-C, 141. p.

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