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Firn-line detection on Austre Okstindbreen, Norway, with airborne multipolarization SAR

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Abstract:

We examine the ability of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to detect the equilibrium line on the glacier Austre Okstindbreen, Norway, using multipolarization SAR images in C- and L-band acquired with the Electromagnetic Institute of the Technical University of Denmark's airborne EMISAR sensor during the European Multisensor Airborne Campaign EMAC '95. The late-summer snowline, approximating the equilibrium line, cannot be seen on the SAR images. Instead, photographs from Austre Okstindbreen show that a distinct boundary visible on the C-band SAR images corresponds to the firn line created by old snow from many previous years. This is better seen on the cross-polarized SAR images (HV and VH), which in general reveal more detail than the HH- and VV-polarized images. We model the stratigraphy from net balance and glacier velocity data to calculate the firn-line altitude (FLA). Modelled FLA and the observed boundary are separated by 50 m in elevation, but considering errors during co-registration and modelling we conclude that the observed boundary on Austre Okstindbreen is the firn line. Monitoring FLA rather than equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) for mass-balance studies with remote sensing is therefore suggested.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756501781832241

Publication date: March 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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