Classification of Debris-Covered Glaciers and Rock Glaciers in the Andes of Central Chile – An Approach Integrating Field Measurements, High-Resolution Satellite Imagery, and Coring Data to Estimate Water Resources

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jason R Janke1, Antonio C Bellisario1 and Francisco A Ferrando2, (1)Metropolitan State University of Denver, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Denver, CO, United States, (2)Universidad de Chile, Depto. De Geografía – FAU, Santiago, Chile
In the Dry Andes of Chile (17 to 35° S), debris-covered glaciers and rock glaciers are differentiated from “true” glaciers based on the percentage of surface debris cover, thickness of surface debris, and ice content. These landforms are more numerous than glaciers in the Central Andes; however, there are often omitted from inventories. Glaciers, debris covered glaciers, and rock glaciers are being removed by mining, while agricultural expansion and population growth have placed an additional demand on water resources. As a result, it is important to identify and locate these features to implement sustainable solutions. The objective of this study is to develop a classification system to identify debris-covered glaciers and rock glaciers based on satellite imagery interpretation. The classification system is linked to field observations and measurements of ice content. Debris covered glaciers have three subclasses: surface coverage of semi (Class 1) and fully covered (Class 2) glaciers differentiates the first two forms, whereas debris thickness is critical for Class 3 when glaciers become buried with more than 3 m of surface debris. The amount of ice decreases from more than 85%, to 65-85%, to 45-65% for semi, fully, and buried debris-covered glaciers, respectively. Rock glaciers are characterized by three stages. Class 4 rock glaciers have pronounced transverse ridges and furrows that arch across the surface, which indicate flow produce via ice. Class 5 rock glaciers have ridges and furrows that appear linear in the direction of flow, and Class 6 rock glaciers have subdued surface topography that has been denudated as the rock glacier ceases movement. Ice content decreases from 25-45% ice, to 10-25% ice, to less than 10% ice from Class 4 to 6, respectively. The classification scheme can be used to identify and map debris covered glaciers and rock glaciers to create an inventory to better estimate available water resources at the basin-wide scale.