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Spaceborne monitoring of the recent contribution of glaciers from the Andes to water resources and sea level rise

Abstract : Andean glaciers are amongst the fastest shrinking and the largest contributors to sea level rise in the world. They also represent crucial water resources in the vast semi-arid portions of this large Andes Cordillera (10°N-56°S), sustaining river runoff during dry periods and buffering the effects of droughts. Despite the widespread shrinkage of these glaciers, direct measurement of glacier fluctuations in the Andes are sparse, short-termed and in many cases incomplete, preventing the accurate quantification of recent ice loss for the entire mountain range. Comprehensively quantifying the magnitude of this loss at different special scales is crucial to better constrain future economical, ecological and social impacts. First, we evaluated the performance of a methodology to calculate glacier mass changes on Andean glaciers using time series of digital elevation models (DEMs) derived from Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) stereo images. Over our validation zone, the Northern Patagonian Icefield, we found strongly negative icefield-wide mass balance rates of -1.06 ± 0.14 m w.e. yr-1 for the period 2000-2012, in good agreement with estimates from earlier studies and with a second independent estimate (-1.02 ± 0.21 m w.e. yr-1) obtained by differencing the better resolved Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) DEM with a Satellite pour l'Observation de la Terre 5 (SPOT5) DEM. Importantly, this work permitted us to (i) validate "ASTER monitoring Ice towards eXtinction" (ASTERIX) method over the Andes; (ii) confirm the lack of penetration of the C-band SRTM radar signal into the NPI snow and firn except for a small high altitude region (above 2900 m a.s.l.) with negligible effects on NPI-wide mass balance; and (iii) provide the basis for an analysis of NPI mass balance changes during different sub-periods between 1975 and 2016 using additional DEMs. Then, we processed more than 30000 ASTER DEMs to calculate the integrated volume of ice lost by Andean glaciers during the past two decades. Andes-wide mass loss amounts to -22.9 ± 5.9 Gt yr-1 (-0.72 ± 0.22 m w.e. yr-1) for the entire period (or -26.0 ± 6.0 Gt yr-1 including subaqueous losses). All regions show consistent glacier wastage, with the most negative mass balance rates in the Patagonian Andes (-0.78 ± 0.25 m w.e. yr-1) and Tropical Andes (-0.42 ± 0.24 m w.e. yr-1). Relatively moderate loss (-0.28 ± 0.18 m w.e. yr-1) is measured in the intermediate regions of the Dry Andes. The inter-decadal patterns of glacier mass loss is an important contribution of this work, observed for the first time at an Andes-wide scale. We observe steady thinning rates in the Tropics and south of 45°S. Conversely, glaciers from the Dry Andes were stable during the 2000s, shifting to drastic thinning rates during the 2010s, coinciding with conditions of sustained drought since 2010. The evaluation of the imbalanced glacier contribution to river discharge during these two decades revealed that glaciers partially helped to mitigate the negative impacts of this sustained drought in the Dry Andes. The results obtained in this thesis contribute to the understanding of recent Andean glacier evolution at a local, regional and Andes-wide scale. We provide a high-quality, multi-decadal dataset that will be useful to constrain the diversity of present 21st century Andes-wide mass loss estimates, in the pursuit of the good calibration of glaciological and hydrological models intended to project future glacier changes and to improve water resource management in the Andes.
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Inés Dussaillant. Spaceborne monitoring of the recent contribution of glaciers from the Andes to water resources and sea level rise. Hydrology. Université Paul Sabatier - Toulouse III, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019TOU30161⟩. ⟨tel-02736043⟩

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