Geology Faculty Publications

Remote Sensing of Glaciers in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Global Land Ice Measurements from Space


Glaciers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are parts of an Asian “critical region” having significant roles in rising sea level, local and regional water resources, natural hazards, and geopolitical stability. The two countries lack fundamental and reliable quantitative information regarding glacier fluctuations. As part of the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) project, we used satellite imagery and field observations to assess a relatively large number of glaciers in both countries. In Afghanistan, many glaciers have systematically been observed to be retreating and downwasting. Many glaciers have lost significant ice mass and have evolved into numerous smaller individual ice masses. Furthermore, the glaciers around the Kohi Bandakha massif in southern Badakshan Province are significantly more debris covered than other regions in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the situation is more complex, as many glacier termini are variably stationary, advancing, or retreating. There appears to be a spatial trend with more retreating glaciers in the western Hindu Kush. To the east we observe more advancing glaciers and surging glaciers associated with an increase in precipitation. These observations suggest that glacier response to climate forcing is very different in Pakistan compared with conditions in the central and eastern Himalaya.

Inclusive pages






Place of Publication

Berlin, Germany

Peer Reviewed