Updated inventory of glacier ice in New Zealand based on 2016 satellite imagery

Sabine Baumann, Brian Anderson, Trevor Chinn, Andrew MacKintosh, Catherine Collier, Andrew M. Lorrey, Wolfgang Rack, Heather Purdie, Shaun Eaves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The only complete inventory of New Zealand glaciers was based on aerial photography starting in 1978. While there have been partial updates using 2002 and 2009 satellite data, most glaciers are still represented by the 1978 outlines in contemporary global glacier databases. The objective of this project is to establish an updated glacier inventory for New Zealand. We have used Landsat 8 OLI satellite imagery from February and March 2016 for delineating clean glaciers using a semi-automatic band ratio method and debris-covered glaciers using a maximum likelihood classification. The outlines have been checked against Sentinel-2 MSI data, which have a higher resolution. Manual post processing was necessary due to misclassifications (e.g. lakes, clouds), mapping in shadowed areas, and combining the clean and debris-covered parts into single glaciers. New Zealand glaciers cover an area of 794 ± 34 km2 in 2016 with a debris-covered area of 10%. Of the 2918 glaciers, seven glaciers are >10 km2 while 71% is <0.1 km2. The debris cover on those largest glaciers is >40%. Only 15 glaciers are located on the North Island. For a selection of glaciers, we were able to calculate the area reduction between the 1978 and 2016 inventories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number261
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Debris-covered glaciers
  • mountain glaciers
  • remote sensing

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