Science Service System

Summary of Proposal HYD1887

TitleMonitoring glacier mass balance and ice dynamics at different Latitudes
Investigator Nagler, Thomas - ENVEO, N/A
Team Member
Dr Magnusson, Eyjolfur - University of Iceland, Institute of Earth Sciences
Dr Rott, Helmut - ENVEO IT GmbH, N/A
Dr Wuite, Jan - ENVEO IT GmbH, N/A
SummaryThe application addressed by this project involves the precise monitoring of surface velocity and debris cover of a large number of mountain glaciers and ice caps in three distinct glacierized regions of the world: Iceland, the Austrian and Swiss Alps and the Pamir Mountains. These 3 regions have a very different geographic setting and their glaciers subsequently respond differently to climatic changes. Monitoring the mass-balance and dynamics of these glaciers is important for a number of reasons: firstly they contribute to global sea level rise, secondly they provide a stable water source and are therefore essential for drink water supply, irrigation of agricultural land and hydro-power generation, thirdly an increasing melt-water production in a warming world could lead to an increase in the number of outburst floods or Jökulhlaups, which are potentially life-threatening events that can cause widespread damage to infrastructure and agricultural land. How glaciers in different regions respond and will respond to a warming global climate is thus an issue of high relevance to the scientific community, policy makers and society in general. For many glaciers detailed information on their current mass balance and variations herein is still lacking or inadequate – this is especially true for the glaciers in the Himalayas and Karakoram ranges for which widely varying numbers have been published. Therefore there is an urgent need for sub-seasonal and more detailed data about the present state of many glaciers and icecaps and the temporal and spatial/geographic variability herein. The main objective of the proposed project will be a contribution to a better understanding of how glaciers in different geographic settings respond to a warming global climate by providing new and updated time series on surface velocity and surface area extend of a number of glaciers in three distinct regions located at different latitudes. Within the proposed project, tools will be developed and adapted (based on available in-house software tools) for exploiting TerraSAR SAR in order to accurately map velocity and temporal changes in ice flow velocity in the study sites Iceland, the Alps, and the Pamir region in the Himalaya. Where data coverage allows we will derive 3D glacier velocity from crossing ascending and descending orbits as well as accurate high resolution surface displacement maps for a many glaciers where these are partly lacking, providing a baseline for the assessment of past and future variations, or updating existing time series with improved spatial and temporal resolution. For selected glaciers in Iceland in-situ GPS data are available, enabling the local validation of 3D ice velocities. The GPS measurements were carried out and are made available by E. Magnussen, CoI of the project. The 3D velocity data will allow studying surface elevation changes as well as associated sub-glacial processes with unprecedented detail. In addition the project will assess and validate new approaches of determining glacier area changes for debris covered glacier tongues from satellite imagery. This is important to improve estimates of glacier surface area changes in mountainous regions where debris often obscures the glacier margins and regular field surveys are usually not feasible. All necessary hard- and software needed to carry out this project will be made available by the participating institutes. All team members are funded throughout the entire duration of the proposed project. The deliverables of the proposed project are: • Annual progress reports as well as a final report • Contributions to TerraSAR Science Team Meetings • Scientific publications • Time series of outlet glacier velocities in the Alps, Iceland and Pamir Mountains • Time series of 3D velocities for selected glaciers including local validation using in-situ GPS measurements (Iceland Glaciers) • Updated glacier surface area maps in regions with high debris cover.

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