The Retreat of Mountain Glaciers since the Little Ice Age: A Spatially Explicit Database
Most of the world’s mountain glaciers have been retreating for more than a century in response to climate change. Glacier retreat is evident on all continents, and the rate of retreat has accelerated during recent decades. Accurate, spatially explicit information on the position of glacier margins over time is useful for analyzing patterns of glacier retreat and measuring reductions in glacier surface area. This information is also essential for evaluating how mountain ecosystems are evolving due to climate warming and the attendant glacier retreat. Here, we present a non-comprehensive spatially explicit dataset showing multiple positions of glacier fronts since the Little Ice Age (LIA) maxima, including many data from the pre-satellite era. The dataset is based on multiple historical archival records including topographical maps; repeated photographs, paintings, and aerial or satellite images with a supplement of geochronology; and own field data. We provide ESRI shapefiles showing 728 past positions of 94 glacier fronts from all continents, except Antarctica, covering the period between the Little Ice Age maxima and the present. On average, the time series span the past 190 years. From 2 to 46 past positions per glacier are depicted (on average: 7.8).