Using repeat oblique aerial photography and satellite imagery to detect glacial change in the Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru, between 1931 and 2019

Authors: Ulrich Kamp*, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Karina Yager, Stony Brook University, Kate Truitt, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Anton Seimon, Appalachian State University, Tracie Seimon, Wildlife Conservation Society, Alvaro Ivanoff, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Topics: Mountain Environments, Cryosphere, Remote Sensing
Keywords: Andes, cryosphere, glacier, mountains, Peru, repeat photography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Governors Square 12, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Terrestrial and aerial image analysis has proven to be a valuable survey method for documenting terrestrial landscape change related to, for example, biodiversity, urbanization, and environmental services such as land vegetation or forest cover and use, glacier extent, and water resources. Historical oblique aerial photographs offer exceptional opportunities to extend the observational record beyond the period covered by traditional nadir aerial surveys and satellite imagery. Here we apply these methods in the Cordillera Vilcanota of Southern Peru, home to Earth’s second largest tropical ice mass (Quelccaya) and the largest high alpine lake in the Andes (Sibinacocha)—a primary source of the Amazon River. The Shippee-Johnson aerial photography expedition of 1931 produced oblique photographs of glaciated peaks of the Cordillera Vilcanota. To determine the extent of glacial loss, we compared the 1931 glacier extents with more recent ones derived from topographic maps and satellite imagery using Agisoft Metashape software. The identification of the flight camera positions from 1931 proved to be challenging, since the original photographs come with only rudimentary information. For out three test glaciers, the analysis showed between a 50% and 95% decrease in glacier area from 1931 to 2018, with the strongest recession in the late 1990s/early 2000s. We are currently in the process of mapping glacier extents using the original 1931 photos and repeated ones from 2005 and 2019. Future studies will include repeating the photographs across the Vilcanota and other Andean mountain ranges, and also include ground truth and UAS imagery analysis.

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