History of GLIMS

by Bruce H. Raup

The GLIMS effort began as an ASTER Science Team project. A member of the ASTER Science Team at the United States Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona, Dr. Hugh Kieffer was primarily responsible for the geometric and radiometric calibration of the instrument, but he also realized that ASTER could be effectively used to help complete the map of Earth's land ice (glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets). In 1995 he hired me to help with this project. The first phase of the project was to create a "science team acquisition request", or STAR, to guide ASTER image acquisitions over glaciers. Through this STAR, ASTER has acquired images over glaciers that are optimized for glacier monitoring: the season is chosen for minimum snow cover, and instrument gain settings are set to prevent saturation over snowy targets. This is documented in

Raup, Bruce H., Hugh H. Kieffer, Trent M. Hare, and Jeffrey S. Kargel (2000). "Generation of Data Acquisition Requests for the ASTER Satellite Instrument for Monitoring a Globally Distributed Target: Glaciers." IEEE Transactions On Geoscience and Remote Sensing 38:1105--1112. (PDF)
The main people involved at this stage were Hugh Kieffer, Jeff Kargel, and I.

The next phase of the project was to build a network of collaborators, glaciologists who are experts in a particular geographic region, who would be responsible for helping optimize the STAR in their region, as well as the analysis of imagery for their region and the production of digital outlines and metadata for the glaciers there. In exchange, these Regional Centers would receive free access to ASTER imagery and help in finding good images in their regions.

After successful implementation of the STAR, I began to design the database that would hold the products of GLIMS analysis. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, had some seed money to implement the database in the form of a project headed by Greg Scharfen. In 1999, I moved to NSIDC and continued the database design. We obtained new funding in 2004 from NASA through a REASoN CAN and a NRA-03-OES-03 grant, and after a study of existing software frameworks and the needs of GLIMS, we chose to implement the database and interfaces to it using Open Source software (PostgreSQL and PostGIS, MapServer). With the database visibly on the Web, Regional Centers began to contribute data regularly in early 2005.