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Satellite monitoring of blue-ice extent near Byrd Glacier, Antarctica

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We use satellite images to track seasonal and interannual variations in blue-ice extent over the past 30 years near Byrd Glacier on the East Antarctic plateau. The study areas have low slope and few nearby nunataks, which may increase their climate sensitivity. A threshold-based algorithm sensitive to snow grain-size is used to analyze 56 Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) images over three recent summer seasons. Seasonal blue-ice exposure grows rapidly in late spring, and peaks by late December. Exposure is relatively constant between late December and mid-January, then declines in February. We interpret this cycle as due to removal and re-accumulation of patchy snow. Interannual changes in blue-ice area may be estimated by tracking the near-constant summer maximum extent period. Fifteen mid-summer Landsat images, spanning 1974–2002, were analyzed to determine long-term variations. Interannual area changes are 10–30% %; however, the MODIS data revealed that the exposed blue-ice area can be sharply reduced for up to 2 weeks after a snowfall event; and in the 2001/02 season, patchy snow cover persisted for the entire summer. The combination of MODIS seasonal and Landsat interannual data indicates that blue-ice areas can be climate-sensitive. The strong feedback between snow cover and surface energy balance implies that blue-ice areas could rapidly decrease due to climate-related increases in snowfall or reduced ablation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-06-01

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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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