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Evaluating the Potential of an Airborne Laser-scanning System for Measuring Volume Changes of Glaciers

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Airborne laser scanning (ALS) is well suited for the production of digital elevation models (DEM), and can, in contrast to photographic methods, be used to acquire a DEM independently of surface texture and external light sources. ALS thus serves as a tool to generate DEMs of firn areas where photogram- metric methods often fail.

The potential of an integrated ALS system – comprising a laser scanner, precise differential global positioning system, and a gyro platform – for DEM generation of firn areas is currently being assessed. The Unteraargletscher, Bernese Alps, Switzerland, has been chosen as a test site. As part of a pilot project aimed at determining the mass balance distribution of that glacier without the use of in situ information, ALS measurements were conducted in autumn 1997. The DEM derived from laser measurements is extremely sensitive to the position and attitude of the aircraft. Currently the main work focuses on assessing and improving the system's accuracy by error modelling and by the development of error-correction algorithms.

Preliminary results from Unteraargletscher are presented, and the potential of this method for the generation of DEMs of firn areas is discussed.

Keywords: Abramov Glacier; Mass balance; White Glacier; accuracy; sample size; statistical modelling

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Geodesy and Geodynamics Lab, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, Switzerland, 2: Laboratory for Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, Switzerland, 3: Institute of Navigation, University of Stuttgart, Germany

Publication date: December 1, 1999

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