A GIS tool for automatic calculation of glacier equilibrium-line altitudes

cgComputers & Geosciences, Volume 82, September 2015, Pages 55–62

By Ramón Pellitero, Brice R. Rea, Matteo Spagnolo, Jostein Bakke, Philip Hughes, Susan Ivy-Ochs, Sven Lukas, and Adriano Ribolini


  • We describe Equilibrium Line Altitude calculation methods for palaeoglaciers.
  • We examine suitability of each method for different glacier types.
  • We present a toolbox for automatic ELA calculation on AAR and AABR methods.
  • Toolbox is coded in Python and runs in ArcGIS.
  • Toolbox use and operation are described.


A toolbox for the automated calculation of glacier equilibrium-line altitudes (ELAs) using the Accumulation Area Ratio, Area-Altitude Balance Ratio, Area-Altitude and Kurowski methods is presented. These are the most commonly-used methods of ELA calculation in palaeo-glacier reconstructions.


“The toolbox has been coded in Python and runs in ArcGIS requiring only the reconstructed surface of the palaeo-glacier (a DEM) as input. Through fast and automatic calculation this toolbox simplifies the process of ELA determination and can successfully work both for a single glacier and for large datasets of multiple glaciers.”