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New digitized glacier inventory

for the former Soviet Union and China Newly available data makes significant contribution to global environmental change studies

Dan Bedford1,2 and Chris Haggerty? National Snow and Ice Data Center/ World Data Center-A for Glaciology NOAA NESDIS

Franz Joseph Land Ushakova Island
Victoria Island

Severnaya Zemlya
Severo-Vostochnyy Mountains

- Novosibirsk

Islands Novaya Zemlya

Wrangel Island Kola Peninsula


Cherskogo and Momskiy


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The link between glaciers and climate is complex, but important for global change detection and for the operating of the global climate system. Climate controls glacier mass through summer melting and winter snowfall; glaciers can influence climate through their high albedos and role as heat sinks; and sea level is affected by glacier recession. Glacier data are important basic tools in attempts to understand this complex two-way relationship. They have become especially significant in recent years, as the need to understand the global climate system has gained a new urgency due to concern over human-induced global climate change.

Glacier data have been used in at least two ways as a part of the study of global climate change. First, they have been used as an early warning system for global and regional warming (see, for example, Oerlemans, 1986; Haeberli and Hoelzle, 1995; Bedford and Barry, 1995b), wherein glacier melting and retreat are used as indicators of a warming trend, often where conventional instrument records are unavailable.

Secondly, they have been used as a medium for estimating possible future sea level rise (Meier, 1990), wherein estimates of global glacier mass loss provide information on one source of mass inputs of water to the oceans. Clearly, for such work to contribute to an understanding or monitoring of the

A Figure 1. Locations of glaciers in the former Soviet Union and China. Data on thousands of these glaciers are contained in NSIDC/WDC-A's Eurasian glacial inventory.

climate system at the global scale, glacier data from the entire globe are required.

Until recently, however, political differences hindered scientific access to glacier data from the former Soviet Union and China. The new availability of such data, through the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and World Data Center A (WDC-A) for Glaciology, makes a significant contribution to the global environmental change community.

Digitization was conducted by the Institute of Geography in Moscow, and data transfer to NSIDC/WDC-A was undertaken first by diskette, then electronically via e-mail. The part of the inventory covering China was digitized in part at the World Data Center-D (WDC-D) for Glaciology in Lanzhou, China, and in part by Dr. Chen Xianzhang of WDC-D from microfiche records during a stay at NSIDC/WDC-A as a visiting scholar.

Following acquisition of the digital inventories, steps were taken to develop products from the raw data. These steps included quality control work, and work to reorganize the data into a format suitable for access by the scientific community. Data acquisition and product development have been and continue to be funded by NOAA's Earth System Data and Information Management Program (ESDIM), primarily through the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)—NOAA Cooperative Agreement, NOAA number NA37RJO 201.


The data available through NSIDC/ WDC-A's Eurasian glacier inventory consist of records for the former Soviet Union and China. Information for the former Soviet Union is based on material originally published in the Katalog Lednikov SSSR (Glacier Catalog of the USSR) (USSR Academy of Sciences, 1966 to 1983) in twenty volumes over a period of several years, but which incorporates substantial new information, most notably latitude and longitude coordinates for all glaciers.

Department of Geography Campus Box 260 University of Colorado Boulder, CO 80309-0260

2National Snow and Ice Data Center/
World Data Center-A for Glaciology
Campus Box 449
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0449

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Product development

The glacier inventories contain data for 21,651 glaciers in the former Soviet Union and 12,183 glaciers in China. Locations for these glaciers are shown in Figure 1. Individual glaciers may contain entries in up to 27 data fields, although not all glaciers have entries in every field. Fields describe a range of important physical characteristics, and contain data derived from direct observations as well as from topographic maps and aerial photographs. Examples of the kind of data available, as well as the number of entries in the primary fields, are outlined in Figure 2. As the data were acquired, they were loaded into a database to facilitate the quality control process. Quality control consisted of a two-tier approach: general checks, which were applied to all fields, and specific checks, which were relevant only to specific individual fields. The general checks were intended to ensure that data were recorded in a consistent manner. For example, dates (such as date of snowline measurement) were found to be recorded as month/day/year in some entries, and day/month/year in others. Such problems were solved simply by correcting all data to a single format.

General checks also identified "false fields," those which appeared with field names in the original data, but contained no actual data. These seem to have occurred when planned measurements were not implemented; the proposed data category remained as a field heading in the inventory, even though no data were collected. False fields were removed from the database.

Specific checks were more complicated, and their nature depended on the field under examination. In general, they were intended to accomplish two things: first, identify the precise meaning of all entries, and second, ensure that impossible entries were removed. The first task was not always easy, since many of the data fields relied on complex code systems, and direct communication with Moscow was often unavailable. However, much of the inventory was consistent with guidelines laid down by the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) in their 1989 report, which provides descriptions of and keys for many of the codes used in the inventory.

Even so, some discrepancies were found. For example, in some cases the inventory uses a slightly different system in the glacier identification number to give the glacier's general location. Where the WGMS system uses the code prefix SUSAZFJ and SUSANOV to identify glaciers in Franz Joseph Land and Novaya Zemlaya respectively, the inventory uses SU4X and SU4Y. Additionally, the WGMS report provides no key for the interpretation of codes for moraine data, although moraine data are frequently mentioned. This key was eventually located in Muller, Caflisch and Muller (1977), and the data were found to be consistent with these guidelines.

Checking for impossible values typically proceeded by ensuring that the data were internally consistent; that is, ensuring that maximum, mean and minimum values were accurate with respect to each other. This was easily achieved with elevations and areas (where ablation area and area of exposed ice could not exceed total area), and several simple recording errors were discovered where a correct value had been recorded in the wrong field.

Occasionally, however, more puzzling errors would appear, such as the presence of a maximum elevation well over 8000 m in the Tien Shan mountains (where the summits only occasionally exceed the 7000 m mark), or the appearance of orientations indicating that a glacier flowed both north and south. (Other factors made it impossible to interpret this as simply meaning the

glacier flowed along a north-south axis.) In these cases, e-mail consultation with Michael Runakhovitch of the Institute of Geography in Moscow was usually required to solve the problem.

Once quality control work was complete, the data were used to generate a glacier inventory product. This product is available from one of NSIDC/ WDC-A's pages on the World Wide Web (WWW). In an effort to allow the user community to access and subset the data within the database easily, a WWW user interface needed to be designed. The Eurasian glacier inventory interface is based upon the General Structured Query Language (GSQL) software developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) by Jason Ng. The GSQL-based interface provides the link between standard WWW input forms or clickable image maps to the data base containing the data. Additionally, by modifying a public domain software package, the cost of developing this interface was cut dramatically.

By using several image maps of Eurasia that can be clicked on (supplemented by geographically named links for non-imaged browsers), the user can narrow a query to the river basin or region of interest. The user can also choose which of the 27 data fields to access, minimizing the amount of data downloaded. By giving the user the power to design their own query (through the WWW interface), the Eur

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Product applications

The glacier inventory data have numerous applications, as noted earlier. An example of initial work (Bedford and Barry, 1995a) uses various inventory data to estimate accumulation area ratios and equilibrium line altitudes for several glaciers in the former Soviet Union, and to examine their variability over space and time. Elaboration on this kind of work has the potential to provide valuable contributions to the study of climate change through the medium of glacier variability.

Other approaches to the study of global climate change have been explored by Haeberli (1995), and Haeberli and Hoelzle (1995), who utilize basic inventory data to infer glacier responses to climate forcings. Further possible product applications include glacial hydrology work, and estimations of future sea level contributions from glacier melt.

Bedford, D.P., and Barry, R.G., 1995a, Analysis

of mass balance indicators in a new gla-
cier inventory of the Former Soviet Union,
AGU 1995 Fall Meeting: Abstract Supple-

ment to Eos, Abstract H 12C-14, p. F195. Bedford, D.P., and Barry, R.G., 1995b, Glacier

trends in the Caucasus, 1960s to 1980s,

Physical Geography, 15 (5), 414-424. Haeberli, W., 1995, Glacier fluctuations and

climate change detection-operational elements of a worldwide monitoring strategy, World Meteorological Organiza

tion Bulletin, 44(1), 23-31. Haeberli

, W., and Hoelzle, M., 1995, Application of inventory data for estimating characteristics of and regional climate change effects on mountain glaciers: a pilot study with the European Alps, Annals of Glaciol

ogy, 21, 206-212. Meier, M., 1990, Reduced rise in sea level,

Nature, 343(6254), 115-116. Muller, F., Caflisch, T., and Muller, G., 1977,

Instructions for Compilation and Assemblage of Data for a World Glacier Inventory, Temporary Technical Secretariat for World

Glacier Inventory, Zurich. Oerlemans, J., 1986, Glaciers as indicators of a

carbon dioxide warming, Nature, 320,

607-609. USSR Academy of Sciences, 1966 to 1983,

Katalog Lednikov SSSR (Glacier Catalog of

the USSR), Gidrometeoizdat, Leningrad. World Glacier Monitoring Service, 1989, World

Glacier Inventory Status 1988, published jointly by the International Association of Hydrological Sciences, Wallingford, UK, the Global Environmental Monitoring System (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, France. I


Future work

Besides future scientific work refining the study of accumulation area ratios and equilibrium line altitudes using the glacier inventory data, plans also include broadening the glacier inventory data archived at WDC-A. Data recently received for Norway and for the Alps have been sent from the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich add substantial records to the inventory. Incorporating these data into the inventory and distributing them is a near-term priority. It is hoped that the compilation of a complete global glacier inventory can be achieved through international cooperation by the turn of the century.

The Eurasian glacier inventory can be accessed through the WWW at URL: Eurasian_glacier_inventory.html.

Anyone with questions regarding this product is encouraged to consult the NSIDC home page at URL: http:// (Figure 3) or contact

A Figure 3. This image of the Gilman glacier in Alaska is accessible through the NSIDC www site at URL:

NCDC announces new online products and services

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) announces the availability of three new on line services through its World Wide Web (WWW) site (http://

daily maximum temperatures for Alert and Eureka, Canada; November-December 1995 daily mean wind speed for London, England.

Images of hurricanes and other storms

Located in the 'online data access' area, this system includes multiple satellite images of all of this year's hurricanes, along with images of significant hurricanes of previous years (e.g., Gilbert, Andrew, Hugo-over 160 images in all. Several other types of images are also included such as the first GOES-9 IR and visible images, tornadic thunderstorms, Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) 'close-ups' of numerous areas, and the March 1993 'storm of the century.'

seven reports produced during 19931994 covering events such as the March '93 blizzard, the '93 Midwest flooding, the February '94 Southeast ice storm, and July '94 flooding in Georgia. The reports are available as ASCII text with separate GIF images, and as Wordperfect files. They include discussions of the events, climatic data tables, computer-analyzed maps of the affected areas, satellite images, and NEXRAD images.

We encourage users to try these new products and systems, and to contact the NCDC with any comments, suggestions, or problems that may be encountered at: National Climatic Data Center NOAA/NESDIS 151 Patton Avenue Asheville, NC 28801-5001 Phone: 704-271-4800 Fax: 704-271-4876 E-mail:

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-Neal Lott National Climatic Data Center


151 Patton Ave. Asheville, NC 28801-5001 E-mail:

Interactive visualization of global daily data

Located in the Interactive Visualization of Climate Data area, this system previously provided graphical analysis and data plots for U.S. climate divisional data and National Weather Service summary of day data. This has now been expanded to include global summary of day data for approximately 8000 worldwide stations. (Additional stations will be added to the system as time and resources permit.)

This global daily data was previously (and still is) available as ASCII data files for 1994 to present. Now, this new system provides for graphical displays of the most recent 18 months of data, with the latest month normally available 5-6 weeks after the end of the data month (e.g., October '95 accessible in early December). The elements that can be graphed are: • daily means for temperature, • dew point, • sea level pressure, • station pressure, • visibility, • wind speed, • daily extremes for sustained wind

speed, • wind gust, • maximum/minimum temperature,

daily precipitation, and • snow depth.

The user selects a region of interest from a global map; then selects the country (or countries) needed; and then the desired station(s), element(s), and time period. The system allows for either GIF or Postscript output. For example, you can display: August 1995 mean daily temperature for Vostok, Antarctica; January 1995 mean daily wind speed and temperature for Mount Washington, New Hampshire; Chicago's daily mean dew points for June through August 1995; August 1995 daily rainfall for Baguio and Manila in the Philippines; February 1995 daily snow depth for Valdez, Alaska and Blue Canyon, California; July 1995

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The Florida Keys ecosystem

monitoring integration project Utilizing new technologies to collect, analyze, and distribute environmental information

Mitchell Katz
Strategic Environmental Assessments Div.

of displaying it graphi-
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coastal resource managers
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The National Ocean Service's Office of Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment (ORCA) is currently conducting a joint effort with the Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI) of the state's Department of Environmental Protection to develop an integrated monitoring plan for the Florida Keys' ecosystem, including Biscayne and Florida bays and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Partial funding is also being provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Federation.

The project is designed to fulfill NOAA's responsibility under the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act, which calls for the establishment of a long-term ecological monitoring program and database. As part of this effort, information has been collected about Federal, State and local marine monitoring efforts in the region, including summary descriptive data and site data.

Designing and implementing an integrated monitoring program requires that the entire marine ecosystem, of which the sanctuary is a part, be considered. It is the way that the information about monitoring activities is being collected, processed, and disseminated, as much as its scope, however, that has taken the project in a new direction compared to past assessment efforts.

Conducted as a true partnership, the project involves the use of the Internet to both organize and transmit the information from Florida to ORCA's offices in Silver Spring, MD and to develop methods

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conducted by NOAA and FMRI. organizations remains problematic. To rectify this problem, known monitoring efforts were identiORCA and FMRI staff met in mid-1995 fied and their project managers interto develop a better method to collect viewed. However, other projects data on and access monitoring pro- identified as a result of the interviews grams in the region. The preliminary were also considered, and as of Novemresult was a series of on-site surveys ber 1995, the heads of over 225 moniconducted between October and No- toring projects in the region had been vember of 1995 with the principal in

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Strategic Environmental Assessments Div.
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1305 East-West Highway
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Silver Spring, MD 20910

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