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Summary of Proposal LAN3011

TitleHimalayan glacier dynamics and hazard assessment
Investigator Luckman, Adrian - Swansea University, School of the Environment and Society
Team Member
Professor Benn, Doug - University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), Arctic Geology
SummaryINTRODUCTION AND OBJECTIVES The long-term fate of glaciers in the Himalayas depends on the balance between rates of mass loss on the glacier tongues and the down-glacier transfer of ice from high altitudes. Recent work has established that stagnation results in increasing rates of mass loss, through the formation and growth of supra-glacial lakes. Knowledge of Himalayan glacier flow rates, and how they vary both seasonally and inter-annually is therefore critically needed. However, freely available satellite data from which to measure glacier dynamics lacks the required spatial resolution and repeat image reliability to satisfy this problem. TerraSAR-X can provide data to overcome these limitations. Here we aim to use TerraSAR-X to assess glacier dynamics in the Everest region of Nepal, how they change in response to seasonal changes in weather, and how they vary in the longer term. We will achieve this aim through the following objectives: 1) Acquire Stripmap-mode images every 3 months for 2 years from ascending and descending satellite tracks (16 in all) covering 5 key glaciers (Ngozumpa, Khumbu, Imja, Kangshung, Rongbuk). 2) Using feature tracking, assess in each glacier the extent of stagnant ice, and the spatial pattern of ice flow rate in relation to altitude, aspect, slope and supra-glacial lake density. 3) Measure seasonal changes in speed in relation to climate data from local weather stations and climate reanalysis products. 4) Assess the relationship between ice dynamics and supraglacial lake development, and the potential for lake calving to destabilise lakes. 5) Compare surface speeds to measurements from previous years using alternative sources of data (Landsat, Aster, etc.) to detect inter-annual changes and glacier surge activity. ANTICIPATED RESULTS AND CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS This project will be the first to fully assess the seasonal variability in Himalayan glacier speeds. Our results will also allow a detailed analysis of controls on glacier dynamics from seasonal to inter-annual time-scales. This information will provide the context for understanding changes in glacier dynamics elsewhere in the Himalayas, as well as helping to assess the growing risk of supraglacial lake drainage in this region. Success will be measured by peer-reviewed publications. METHODS Our main method is feature tracking, which uses cross-correlation of images patches in the spatial frequency domain to find the displacement of patterns of rock debris on the glacier surface. Displacement of features in slant range coordinates are converted to velocity in ground range coordinates and orthorectified to a suitable map projection. We will use the ASTER GDEM product to explore topographic controls on glacier speed, and ECMWF ERA-interim climate reanalysis data to investigate climatic controls on seasonal variability in dynamics. DATA REQUIREMENTS We request 16 Stripmap-mode images in all (4 per year for two years on both ascending and descending tracks) at COFUR costs. Ascending and descending tracks are required to mitigate layover effects in such steep terrain. FUNDING Support is in place for personnel effort as well as for data costs. Luckman receives support for research from Swansea University as part of his permanent position and will dedicate part of this to the project. Likewise, Benn’s permanent position will allow ample time for analysis of the results. Costs for data (~€3,200) will be provided by a current research project. CRIOS is a blue-skies research project with no commercial applications funded by Conoco-Phillips in a grant of over €1.2M to Benn at UNIS. This project includes explicit funding for satellite data and has already been used to fund previous TerraSAR-X acquisitions (OCE1503). The aims of CRIOS are to understand the impact of glaciers on sea level including calving within supraglacial lakes.

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