Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Identifying and mapping very small (<0.5 km2) mountain glaciers on coarse to high-resolution imagery

Leigh, J.R.; Stokes, C.R.; Carr, J.R.; Evans, I.S.; Andreassen, L.M.; Evans, D.J.A

Identifying and mapping very small (<0.5 km2) mountain glaciers on coarse to high-resolution imagery Thumbnail


Profile Image

Joshua Leigh
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

J.R. Carr

L.M. Andreassen


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). Here, we compare the ability of different remote-sensing approaches to identify and map very small glaciers on imagery of varying spatial resolutions (30–0.25 m) and investigate how operator subjectivity influences the results. Based on this analysis, we support the use of a minimum size-threshold of 0.01 km2 for imagery with coarse to medium spatial resolution (30–10 m). 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 develop a set of criteria to enable the identification of very small glaciers and classify them as certain, probable or possible. This should facilitate a more consistent approach to identifying and mapping very small glaciers on high-resolution imagery, helping to produce more comprehensive and accurate glacier inventories.


Leigh, J., Stokes, C., Carr, J., Evans, I., Andreassen, L., & Evans, D. (2019). Identifying and mapping very small (

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 4, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 27, 2019
Publication Date 2019
Deposit Date Apr 10, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 4, 2019
Journal Journal of Glaciology
Print ISSN 0022-1430
Electronic ISSN 1727-5652
Publisher International Glaciological Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 65
Pages 878-888


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (1.7 Mb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
Advance online version COPYRIGHT: © The Author(s) 2019. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations