How to use multispectral images to map the glaciers of our world?

Presently, 10 percent of land area on Earth is covered with glacial ice, including glaciers, ice caps, and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Of course due to climate change this percentage decrease unfortunately. Areas filled with glaciers cover over 15 million square kilometers, while they store about 75 percent of the world’s fresh water.

Glaciers are an essential part of our living environment and especially the cryosphere. Although not everybody is familiar with glaciers, they are considered as very important natural regions that need to be preserved and monitored. Scientists analyzing glaciers can better model and understand the climate and it’s changes and dive into earth’s long forgotten climate history!

Remote sensing images acquired from different platforms (satellite, aircraft) using sensors that operate in different spectral regions (visible, infrared, microwave) have been widely used to study glaciers, e.g. to measure ice thickness, surface ice velocities, and changes in surface elevation over time. Remote sensing techniques have been used for spectral characterisation of different snow and icefaces, preliminary inventory of glaciers including aerial extent and position of large crevasses, and for mapping and monitoring glacial variations especially at the glacier margins and terminus location.

The images below are different time stamps of the same area. In the left you have the natural colour (as you would see it with you own eyes) and in the right you see the result of an index called NDGI (Normalized Difference Glacier Index).

Multi-temporal Sentinel 2 imagery data allow the terminus and area mapping of glaciers as well as the study of the spectral characteristics of snow and ice in the spatial resolution of 10 m — 20 m.

Pricing - Lifetime Access

Climate is Changing. Learn now how to map our planet's most fragile ecosystems!

This remote sensing online course is about helping you understand glacier and snow cover mapping using Earth Observation satellites. Initially we focus on the basic principles, i.e. how snow interacts with the electromagnetic radiation. Then we proceed on the specific methodologies that will allow you to map glaciers and snow covered areas using multispectral satellite images. From the practical side, we also focus our learning on how to perform these methods in ESA's SNAP software. We also provide ready-to-use XML files for the SNAP GPT!

Course curriculum

  1. 02
    • Lesson 2: Electromagnetic Radiation Basics

    • Lesson 3: How Snow interacts with Visible and NIR Radiation?

    • Lesson 4: How Snow interacts with Thermal Radiation?

    • Lesson 5: How Snow interacts with Microwave Radiation?

    • Quiz 1

  2. 03
  3. 04
    • Lesson 10: Glacier and Snow Mapping Methods

    • Lesson 11: Spectral Index Mapping Method

    • Download Spectral Index Mapping Method

    • Lesson 12: Principal Component Analysis Mapping Method

    • Download PCA Mapping Method

    • Quiz 3

What will you learn?

  • glacier mapping using remote sensing

  • Sentinel-2 processing to map Glaciers and Snow Cover

  • ESA SNAP Graph Builder Tool


  • Learn how electromagnetic radiation interacts with snow

Any prerequisites?

  • Basic knowledge of Earth Observation

  • Be familiar with ESA Sentinels Application Platform (SNAP) software

  • A simple laptop or desktop computer to follow the course's steps

GEO Premium

Access our ENTIRE content with a yearly subscription only 8$/month

Student Profile?

  • Under/post graduate students

  • Professionals and Companies

  • Master students and PhD candidates

  • Researchers and Academics

Some more information

  • Certificates of Completion

    After you successfully finish the course, you can claim your Certificate of Completion with NO extra cost! You can add it to your CV, LinkedIn profile etc

  • Available at any time! Study at your best time

    We know hard it is to acquire new skills. All our courses are self paced.

  • Online and always accessible

    Even when you finish the course and you get your certificate, you will still have access to course contents! Every time an Instructor makes an update you will be notified and be able to watch it for FREE

About your Instructor

I'm a Remote Sensing and a Surveying Engineer. I received my degree from NTUA in 2010, where I also received my Ph.D. in hyperspectral remote sensing in 2016. From graduation in 2010, my career started as a Researcher Associate and Teaching Associate in the Laboratory of Remote Sensing of NTUA. From that time I also worked at several private companies as a Remote Sensing Expert and Geospatial Analyst. From the beginning of 2015 I was positioned as Senior Earth Observation Expert. During these years, I have participated in more than 20 funded European Commission and European Space Agency projects, have over 16 peer reviewed scientific publications in the field of Remote Sensing, and have an international patent in hyperspectral data compression.My main research and professional interests are in the optical remote sensing area, where I specialize in data (images, point measurements) processing and algorithm design and development. Some of the software tools that I operate to accomplish my research and business dreams are SNAP, ENVI, IDL, QGIS, ERDAS Imagine, ArcGIS, and Python. I have been working with these tools since 2008.

Dimitris Sykas

Remote Sensing Expert

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