Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 2487–2498, 2012
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 2487–2498, 2012

Research article 07 Aug 2012

Research article | 07 Aug 2012

Glacial lake mapping with very high resolution satellite SAR data

T. Strozzi1, A. Wiesmann1, A. Kääb2, S. Joshi3, and P. Mool3 T. Strozzi et al.
  • 1Gamma Remote Sensing AG, Gümligen, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Norway
  • 3International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal

Abstract. Floods resulting from the outbursts of glacial lakes are among the most far-reaching disasters in high mountain regions. Glacial lakes are typically located in remote areas and space-borne remote sensing data are an important source of information about the occurrence and development of such lakes. Here we show that very high resolution satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data can be employed for reliably mapping glacial lakes. Results in the Alps, Pamir and Himalaya using TerraSAR-X and Radarsat-2 data are discussed in comparison to in-situ information, and high-resolution satellite optical and radar imagery. The performance of the satellite SAR data is best during the snow- and ice-free season. In the broader perspective of hazard management, the detection of glacial lakes and the monitoring of their changes from very high-resolution satellite SAR intensity images contributes to the initial assessment of hazards related to glacial lakes, but a more integrated, multi-level approach needs also to include other relevant information such as glacier outlines and outline changes or the identification of unstable slopes above the lake and the surrounding area, information types to which SAR analysis techniques can also contribute.