Applicability of Landsat 8 data for characterizing glacier facies and supraglacial debris

Anshuman Bhardwaj, P. K. Joshi*, Snehmani, Lydia Sam, Mritunjay Kumar Singh, Shaktiman Singh, Rajesh Kumar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The present work evaluates the applicability of operational land imager (OLI) and thermal infrared sensor (TIRS) on-board Landsat 8 satellite. We demonstrate an algorithm for automated mapping of glacier facies and supraglacial debris using data collected in blue, near infrared (NIR), short wave infrared (SWIR) and thermal infrared (TIR) bands. The reflectance properties in visible and NIR regions of OLI for various glacier facies are in contrast with those in SWIR region. Based on the premise that different surface types (snow, ice and debris) of a glacier should show distinct thermal regimes, the ‘at-satellite brightness temperature’ obtained using TIRS was used as a base layer for developing the algorithm. This base layer was enhanced and modified using contrasting reflectance properties of OLI bands. In addition to facies and debris cover characterization, another interesting outcome of this algorithm was extraction of crevasses on the glacier surface which were distinctly visible in output and classified images. The validity of this algorithm was checked using field data along a transect of the glacier acquired during the satellite pass over the study area. With slight scene-dependent threshold adjustments, this work can be replicated for mapping glacier facies and supraglacial debris in any alpine valley glacier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-64
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Glacier facies
  • Landsat 8
  • Remote sensing
  • Supraglacial debris


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