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Two methods for firn-area and mass-balance monitoring of Svalbard glaciers with SAR satellite images

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This paper presents two methods for glacier monitoring on Svalbard using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite images. Both methods were developed on glaciers in the Kongsfjorden area. The first method monitors the firn area extent and the firn line over time by thresholding and filtering the SAR image. Manual detection of the threshold is preferable, but using a constant threshold for all images also gives adequate results. A retreat of the firn-line position is visible, especially on Kongsvegen, corresponding to consecutive years of negative mass balance. The second method applies a k-means classification to three clusters on the glacier surface. The areal extent of the resulting class on the upper part of the glacier correlates remarkably well with the independently measured mass balance of Kongsvegen, having a correlation coefficient of around 0.89 for the various glaciers. This is because the snow from the accumulation area influences the k-means classification. Thus, on glaciers where mass-balance values are available, new mass-balance values can be predicted solely from SAR images. For glaciers where no mass balance is available, the area change cannot be calibrated to absolute mass-balance values, but relative changes can be predicted.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2004

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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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