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Seasonal comparison of ice-surface structures in the ablation area of Jakobshavn Isbrae drainage system, West Greenland

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Ice surface roughness is a parameter of importance to many glaciological studies. Surface roughness, a derivative of microtopography, provides the high-resolution information necessary to characterize morphological types of ice surfaces and complements satellite data in investigations of surface features across scale. There has been a gap in observational scale between high-resolution satellite data, aircraft data and analyses at microscopic scale, the latter investigating material properties rather than micromorphology. To fill this gap, we designed and built the Glacier Roughness Sensor (GRS), a towed instrument that collects surface roughness data mechanically in swath-survey style with 0.1 m along-track spacing, 0.2 m across-track spacing, and sub-centimeter accuracy for areas typically 100 m by 175 m. As a result of this instrument development, the variable ice surface roughness has been added as a geophysical observable in the study of glaciers and ice sheets. The method utilized for analysis of GRS surface roughness data is geostatistical classification employing a range of parameters extracted from vario functions, which are generalized spatial structure functions. In a seasonal comparison of data from spring (May 1997) and summer (late July 1999), characteristic parameters of the spring and summer ice surface were calculated, and, as a result, an answer to the morphogenetic question of ice surface processes could be derived: in this part of the Jakobshavn Isbrae drainage basin, ice-surface structures develop in an interplay of ablation, refreezing, snowfall, wind and (distant) crevassing, each process yields characteristically different components of the surface structure, and ablation is the dominant morphogenetic process.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2003

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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