GlacierMap: research project

GlacierMap: mapping glacier change in the Peruvian Andes 

The Cordillera Blanca in the Peruvian Andes is the world’s most glaciated tropical mountain range, however over the last four decades glacier extent has reduced by 25%, with significant implications for freshwater resources. Glaciers are essential to water supplies in the Cordillera Blanca for domestic water consumption, agriculture, industry, and hydroelectricity production within the increasingly populated region. For mountain communities in the Cordillera Blanca, glacial melt provides up to two thirds of dry season water supply and up to 91% during drought years. The impact of glacier retreat on downstream stakeholders is thus extremely important for water, food, and energy security, yet these issues remain poorly communicated to the public. To address this we have designed a citizen science project, GlacierMap, which will enable participants to map glacier outlines in the Cordillera Blanca from satellite imagery across multiple time periods using a free web-based mapping tool. GlacierMap is funded by UKRI, and will contribute to the creation of a new database for glacier area change, and help to increase public awareness of mountain glacier retreat, changes to meltwater production, and implications for water, food, and energy security. Secondary school geography participants in the UK have been identified as the primary target audience for this pilot project to maximise the added value of the activity: upskilling of GIS, raising the profile of glaciology in education, and increasing awareness of the downstream impacts of glacier retreat. The results of this pilot project will feed directly into the NERC-funded (Newton Fund) SIGMA project by helping to inform patterns of glacier change in the region, which together with hydrological data will be used to assess future risk to water supply. Following analysis of the success of the tool for data generation and learning, GlacierMap will also be used within the SIGMA project for both educational and stakeholder engagement activities in Peru.

To contribute to GlacierMap and help us understand more about glacier change in the Andes, please visit the free online app.

Project members: Caroline Clason - PI, Sally Rangecroft, Gina Kallis, Shaun Lewin, Will Blake, and Iain Stewart (University of Plymouth)

University members