Mass balance and area changes of glaciers in the Cordillera Real and Tres Cruces, Bolivia, between 2000 and 2016

Thorsten Seehaus, Philipp Malz, Christian Sommer, Alvaro Soruco, Antoine Rabatel, Matthias Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Climate change has led to a significant shrinkage of glaciers in the Tropical Andes during the last decades. Recent multi-Temporal quantifications of ice mass loss at mountain range to regional scale are missing. However, this is fundamental information for future water resource planning and glacier change projections. In this study, we measure temporally consistent glacier area changes and geodetic mass balances throughout the Bolivian Cordillera Real and Tres Cruces based on multi-sensor remote-sensing data. By analyzing multi-spectral satellite images and interferometric SAR data, a glacier recession of 81 ± 18 km2 (29%; 5.1 ± 1.1 km2 a-1), a geodetic mass balance of-403 ± 78 kg m-2 a-1 and a total ice mass loss of 1.8 ± 0.5 Gt is derived for 2000-2016. In the period 2013-2016, ice mass loss was 21% above the average rate. A retreat rate of 15 ± 5 km2 a-1 and a mass budget of-487 ± 349 kg m-2 a-1 are found in this more recent period. These higher change rates can be attributed to the strong El Niño event in 2015/16. The analyses of individual glacier changes and topographic variables confirmed the dependency of the mass budget and glacier recession on glacier aspect and median elevation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-136
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number255
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported with the DLR/BMWi grant GEKKO (50EE1544), the grant BR2105/14-1 within the DFG Priority Program ‘Regional Sea Level Change and Society’ as well as the HGF Alliance Remote Sensing & Earth System Dynamics. We thank the German Aerospace Center for providing TanDEM-X data free of charge under AO XTI_GLAC0264. Landsat data were kindly provided via USGS Earth Explorer; SRTM by NASA. In situ glaciological and meteorological measurements at Zongo and Charquini Sur glaciers were provided through the French Service National d'Observation GLACIOCLIM ( ) and the Laboratoire Mixte International GREAT-ICE (a joint initiative between the French IRD and national counterpart in Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia). The Pléiades DEM was obtained through the CNES/SPOT-Image ISIS program (contract #FC18473, led by A. Rabatel). A. Rabatel acknowledges the support of the Labex OSUG@2020 ( Investissements d'avenir – ANR10 LABX56). We thank the scientific editor Hamish Pritchard and four anonymous reviewers.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s) 2019.


  • Glacier delineation
  • glacier mass balance
  • remote sensing
  • tropical glaciology


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