Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 836–849 | Cite as

Assessment of glacier stored water in Karakoram Himalaya using satellite remote sensing and field investigation

  • Kamal Kant SinghEmail author
  • Harendra Singh Negi
  • Dhiraj Kumar Singh


Karakoram Himalaya (KH) has continental climatic conditions and possesses largest concentration of glaciers outside the polar regions. The melt water from these glaciers is a major contributor to the Indus river. In this study, various methods have been used to estimate the ice volume in the Karakoram Range of glaciers such as Co-registration of Optically Sensed Images and Correlation (COSI-Corr) method and Area-Volume relations. Landsat 8 satellite data has been used to generate the ice displacement, velocity and thickness map. Our study for 558 Karakoram glaciers revealed that the average ice thickness in Karakoram is 90 m. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey has been conducted in one of the KH glacier i.e. Saser La glacier and the collected GPR data is used for the validation of satellite derived thickness map. GPR measured glacier thickness values are found comparable with satellite estimated values with RMSE of 4.3 m. The total ice volume of the Karakoram glaciers is estimated to be 1607±19 km3(1473±17 Gt), which is equivalent to 1473±17 km3 of water equivalent. Present study also covers the analysis of glacier surface displacement, velocity and ice thickness values with reference to glacier mean slope.


Glacier COSI-Corr Karakoram Range Ground Penetrating Radar GPR Volume-Area 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



We thank Director SASE, Chandigarh for encouragement and providing support to this work. We are thankful to Department of Science and Technology (DST), New Delhi for financial support to project no. SB/DGH-102/2015. We are grateful to the US Geological Survey for its free data policy and allowing us to use Landsat images and ASTER DEM for the analysis. We also acknowledge S. Leprince et al. for providing the COSI-Corr module freely available on internet.


  1. Adhikari S, Marshall SJ (2012) Glacier volume-area relation for high-order mechanics and transient glacier states. Geophysical Research Letters 39(16).
  2. Arendt A, Echelmeyer K, Harrison W, et al. (2006) Updated estimates of glacier volume changes in the western Chugach Mountains, Alaska, and a comparison of regional extrapolation methods. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 111(3).
  3. Bahr DB, Meier MF, Peckham SD (1997) The physical basis of glacier volume-area scaling. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 102(B9): 20355–20362.
  4. Basnett S, Kulkarni AV, Bolch T (2013) The influence of debris cover and glacial lakes on the recession of glaciers in Sikkim Himalaya, India. Journal of Glaciology 59(218): 1–12. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berthier E, Arnaud Y, Kumar R, et al. (2007) Remote sensing estimates of glacier mass balances in the Himachal Pradesh (Western Himalaya, India). Remote Sensing of Environment 108(3): 327–338. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berthier E, Vadon H, Baratoux D, et al. (2005) Surface motion of mountain glaciers derived from satellite optical imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment 95: 14–28. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Binet R, Bollinger L (2005) Horizontal coseismic deformation of the 2003 Bam (Iran) earthquake measured from SPOT-5 THR satellite imagery. Geophysical Research Letters 32: (L02307).
  8. Bolch T, Kulkarni A, Kääb A, et al. (2012) The state and fate of Himalayan glaciers. Science 336(6079): 310–314. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chaohai L, Sharma CK (1988) Report on First Expedition to Glaciers in the Pumqu (Arun) and Poiqu (Bhote-Sun Kosi) River Basins, Xizang (Tibet), China. Science Press, Beijing, China. p 192.Google Scholar
  10. Chen J, Ohmura A (1990) Estimation of Alpine glacier water resources and their change since the 1870s. Hydrology in Mauntainous Regions V (193): 127–136.Google Scholar
  11. Cuffey KM, Paterson WS (2010) The physics of glaciers. 4th ed. Geoforum.
  12. Evans AN (2000) Glacier surface motion computation from digital image sequences. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 38(2): 1064–1072. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Farinotti D, Huss M (2013) An upper-bound estimate for the accuracy of glacier volume-area scaling. Cryosphere 7(6): 1707–1720. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Farinotti D, Huss M, Bauder A, et al. (2009a) A method to estimate ice volume and ice-thickness distribution of alpine glaciers. Journal of Glaciology 55(191): 422–430. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fischer A, Kuhn M (2013) Ground-penetrating radar measurements of 64 Austrian glaciers between 1995 and 2010. Annals of Glaciology 54(64): 179–188. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frey H, Machguth H, Huss M, Huggel C, Bajracharya S, Bolch T, Kulkarni A, Linsbauer A, Salzmann N, Stoffel M (2014) Estimating the volume of glaciers in the Himalayan-Karakoram region using different methods. Cryosphere 8(6): 2313–2333. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gantayat P, Kulkarni AV, Srinivasan J (2014) Estimation of ice thickness using surface velocities and slope: Case study at Gangotri Glacier, India. Journal of Glaciology 60(220): 277–282. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gergen JT, Dobhal DP, Kaushik R (1999) Ground penetrating radar ice thickness measurements of Dokriani bamak (glacier), Garhwal Himalaya. Current Science 77(1): 169–173. Google Scholar
  19. Grinsted A (2013) An estimate of global glacier volume. Cryosphere 7(1): 141–151. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haeberli W, Hoelzle M (1995) Application of inventory data for estimating characteristics of and regional climate-change effects on mountain glaciers: a pilot study with the European Alps. Annals of Glaciology 21: 206–212. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Herman F, Anderson B, Leprince S (2011) Mountain glacier velocity variation during a retreat/advance cycle quantified using sub-pixel analysis of ASTER images. Journal of Glaciology 57(202): 197–207. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hock R, Rees G, Williams MW, Ramirez E (2006) Contribution from glaciers and snow cover to runoff from mountains in different climates. Hydrological Processes 20(10): 2089–2090. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huang L and Li Z (2009) Mountain glacier flow velocities analyzed from satellite optical images. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology 31: 935–940.Google Scholar
  24. Huang L, Li Z (2011) Comparison of SAR and optical data in deriving glacier velocity with feature tracking. International Journal of remote Sensing 33: 2681–1698. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jiracek GR, Bentley CR (1971) Velocity of electromagnetic waves in Antarctic ice. Antarctic Research Series 16: 199–208. Google Scholar
  26. Jones JAA (1999) Climate change and sustainable water resources: Placing the threat of global warming in perspective. Hydrological Sciences Journal 44(4): 541–557. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kääb A, Vollmer M (2000) Surface geometry, thickness changes and flow fields on creeping mountain permafrost: Automatic extraction by digital image analysis. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 11(4): 315–326.<315::AID-PPP365>3.0.CO;2-JCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kargel JS, Leonard GJ, Bishop MP, et al. (2014) Global Land Ice measurements from Space. Springer, Berlin, Germany.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Leprince S, Barbot S, Ayoub F, Avouac JP (2007) Automatic and precise ortho-rectification, coregistration, and subpixel correlation of satellite images, application to ground deformation measurements. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sensing 45: 1529–1558. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. LIGG, WECS, and NEA (1988) Report on first expedition to glaciers and glacier lakes in the Pumqu (Arun) and Poiqu (Bhote-Sun Kosi) river basins, Xizang (Tibet), China. Science Press, Beijing, China.Google Scholar
  31. Linsbauer A, Paul F, Hoelzle M, et al. (2009) The Swiss Alps Without Glaciers — A GIS-based Modelling Approach for Reconstruction of Glacier Beds. In: Purves R, Gruber S, Straumann R, Hengl T (eds.), Proceedings of Geomorphometry, University of Zurich, Zurich. pp 243–247.Google Scholar
  32. Mathieu R, Chinn T, Fitzharris B (2009) Detecting the equilibrium-line altitudes of New Zealand glaciers using ASTER satellite images. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 52(3): 209–222. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meier MF, Dyurgerov MB, Rick UK, et al. (2007) Glaciers dominate eustatic sea-level rise in the 21st century. Science 317(5841): 1064–1067. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moorman BJ, Robinson SD, Burgess MM (2003) Imaging periglacial conditions with ground-penetrating radar. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 14:319–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Navarro FJ, Martín-Español A, Lapazaran JJ, et al. (2014) Ice Volume Estimates from Ground-Penetrating Radar Surveys, Wedel Jarlsberg Land Glaciers, Svalbard. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 46(2): 394–406. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Negi HS, Kanda N, Shekhar MS, Ganju A (2018) Recent wintertime climatic variability over the North West Himalayan cryosphere. Current Science 114(4): 760–770. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Paul F, Andreassen LM (2009) A new glacier inventory for the Svartisen region, Norway, from Landsat ETM+ data: challenges and change assessment. Journal of Glaciology 55(192): 607–618. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pfeffer WT, Arendt AA, Bliss A, Bolch T, Cogley JG, Gardner AS, Wyatt FR (2014) The randolph glacier inventory: A globally complete inventory of glaciers. Journal of Glaciology, 60(221), 537–552. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rankl M, Kienholz C, Braun M (2014) Glacier changes in the Karakoram region mapped by multimission satellite imagery. Cryosphere 8: 977–989. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ramsankaran R, Pandi, A, Azam MF (2018) Spatially distributed ice-thickness modelling for Chhota Shigri Glacier in western Himalayas, India. International Journal of Remote Sensing 39(10): 3320–3343. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Remya SN, Kulkarni AV, Pradeep S, Shrestha DG (2019) Volume estimation of existing and potential glacier lakes: A case study in Sikkim Himalaya. Current Science 116(4): 620–627. Google Scholar
  42. Robin GDEQ (1975) Velocity of radio waves in ice by means of a bore-hole interferometric technique. Journal of Glaciology 15(73): 151–159. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Scherler D, Bookhagen B, Strecker MR (2011) Spatially variable response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change affected by debris cover. Nature Geoscience 4(3): 156–159. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Scherler D, Leprince S, Strecker M (2008) Glacier-surface velocities in alpine terrain from optical satellite imagery-Accuracy improvement and quality assessment. Remote Sensing of Environment 112: 3806–3819. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scherler D, Strecker MR (2012) Large surface velocity fluctuations of Biafo glacier, central Karakoram, at high spatial and temporal resolution from optical satellite images. Journal of Glaciology 58: 569–580. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sellevold MA, Kloster K (1964) Seismic measurements on the glacier Hardangerjøkulen, Western Norway. Norsk Polarinstitutt Arbok. pp 87–91.Google Scholar
  47. Singh KK, Kulkarni AV, Mishra VD (2010) Estimation of glacier depth and moraine cover study using ground penetrating radar (GPR) in the Himalayan region. Journal of the Indian Society of Remote Sensing 38(1): 1–9. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Singh SK, Rathore BP, Bahuguna IM, et al. (2012) Estimation of glacier ice thickness using Ground Penetrating Radar in the Himalayan region. Current Science 103(1): 68–73.Google Scholar
  49. Singh KK, Singh DK, Negi HS, et al. (2018) Temporal change and flow velocity estimation of Patseo glacier, Western Himalaya. Current Science 114(4): 776–784. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sun Y, Jiang L, Liu L, Sun Y, Wang H (2017) Spatial-Temporal characteristics of glacier velocity in the Central Karakoram revealed with 1999–2003 Landsat-7 ETM+ Pan images. Remote Sensing 9(10): 1064. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tiwari RK, Gupta RP, Arora MK (2014) Estimation of surface ice velocity of Chhota-Shigri glacier using sub-pixel ASTER image correlation. Current Science 106: 853–859.Google Scholar
  52. Vaughan DG, Comiso JC, Allison I, et al. (2013) Observations: Cryosphere. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.Google Scholar
  53. Venkatesh TN, Kulkarni AV, Srinivasan J (2012) Relative effect of slope and equilibrium line altitude on the retreat of Himalayan glaciers. The Cryosphere 6: 301–311. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wessels R, Kargel JS, Kieffer HH (2002) ASTER measurement of supraglacial lakes in the Mount Everest region of the Himalaya. Annals of Glaciology 34: 399–408. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wu QX, Mcneil SJ, Pairman D (1997) Correlation and relaxation labelling: an experimental investigation on fast algorithms. International Journal of Remote Sensing 18: 651–662. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Him-ParisarChandigarhIndia

Personalised recommendations