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Blue-ice areas in Antarctica derived from NOAA AVHRR satellite data

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We have mapped Antarctic blue-ice areas using the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) Antarctica cloud-free image mosaic established by the United States Geological Survey. The mosaic consists of 38 scenes acquired from 1980 to 1994. Our results show that approximately 60 000 km2 of blue ice exist for each of the two main types of blue ice: "melt-induced" and "wind-induced". Normally, the former type is located on slopes in coastal areas where climate conditions (i.e. persistent winds and temperature), together with favourable surface orientation, sustain conditions for surface and near-surface melt. The latter blue-ice category occurs near mountains or on outlet glaciers, often at higher elevations, where persistent winds erode snow away year-round, and combined with sublimation creates areas of net ablation. Furthermore, we have identified an additional area of 121000 km2 as having potential for blue ice. However, in these areas features such as mixed pixels, glazed snow surfaces, crevasses and/or shadows make interpretation more uncertain. In conclusion, a conservative estimate of Antarctic blue-ice area coverage by this method is found to be 120 000 km2 (~0.8% of the Antarctic continent), with a potential maximum of 241000 km2 (~1.6% of the Antarctic continent).

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-03-01

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  • 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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