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The use of remote-sensing data for mass-balance studies at Mýrdalsjökull ice cap, Iceland

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A series of satellite images of Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland, was analyzed in view of their value for mass-balance investigations. A combination of optical satellite images from the ASTER sensor and synthetic aperture radar data from ERS-2 and Envisat ASAR proved very useful. The glacier margin of Mýrdalsjökull was delineated on ASTER images from summer and winter 2004. With a time series of summer ASAR images it was possible to monitor the temporal and spatial development of the transient snowline (TSL) throughout the year 2004, as well as the firn line (FL) at the end of the balance year. An 'inverse' function was applied to visually enhance detail in the radar imagery. Winter radar images were not useful for mass-balance observations because of frequent surface melting, which prevented the transparency of the snow cover for C-band microwaves. Interannual mass-balance fluctuations were observed by comparing three radar images acquired in late summer 1998, 1999 and 2004 respectively. These fluctuations follow the same trend as the annual mean air temperature which shows a strong increasing trend between 1999 and 2004. An accumulation-area ratio of <0.43 was determined for 2004, indicating clear negative mass-balance conditions. Monitoring the TSL–FL with radar summer images for mass-balance studies, rather than the equilibrium line (EL), is suggested for large ice caps in maritime climates.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2006

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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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