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Remote sensing of the mountain cryosphere: Current capabilities and future opportunities for research

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Liam S. Taylor
  • Duncan J. Quincey
  • Mark W. Smith
  • Celia A. Baumhoer
  • Mal McMillan
  • Damien T. Mansell
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/12/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Progress in Physical Geography
Issue number6
Number of pages34
Pages (from-to)931-964
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date30/06/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Remote sensing technologies are integral to monitoring the mountain cryosphere in a warming world. Satellite missions and field-based platforms have transformed understanding of the processes driving changes in mountain glacier dynamics, snow cover, lake evolution, and the associated emergence of hazards (e.g. avalanches, floods, landslides). Sensors and platforms are becoming more bespoke, with innovation being driven by the commercial sector, and image repositories are more frequently open access, leading to the democratisation of data analysis and interpretation. Cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are rapidly transforming our ability to handle this exponential increase in data. This review therefore provides a timely opportunity to synthesise current capabilities in remote sensing of the mountain cryosphere. Scientific and commercial applications were critically examined, recognising the technologies that have most advanced the discipline. Low-cost sensors can also be deployed in the field, using microprocessors and telecommunications equipment to connect mountain glaciers to stakeholders for real-time monitoring. The potential for novel automated pipelines that can process vast volumes of data is also discussed, from reimagining historical aerial imagery to produce elevation models, to automatically delineating glacier boundaries. Finally, the applications of these emerging techniques that will benefit scientific research avenues and real-world societal programmes are discussed.