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Mountain glacier velocity variation during a retreat/advance cycle quantified using sub-pixel analysis of ASTER images

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Coverage of ice velocities in the central part of the Southern Alps, New Zealand, is obtained from feature tracking using repeat optical imagery in 2002 and 2006. Precise orthorectification, co-registration and correlation is carried out using the freely available software COSI-Corr. This analysis, combined with short times between image acquisitions, has enabled velocities to be captured even in the accumulation areas, where velocities are lowest and surface features ephemeral. The results indicate large velocities for mountain glaciers (i.e. up to ~5 m d–1) as well as dynamic changes in some glaciers that have occurred between 2002 and 2006. For the steep and more responsive Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers the speed increased at the glacier snout during the advance period, while the low-angled and debris-covered Tasman Glacier showed no measurable velocity change. Velocity increases on the steeper glaciers are the result of an observed thickening and steepening of the glacier tongues as they moved from a retreat phase in 2002 to an advance phase in 2006. This contrasting behaviour is consistent with historic terminus position changes. The steeper glaciers have undergone several advance/retreat cycles during the observation period (1894 to present), while the low-angled glacier showed little terminus response until retreat resulting from the accelerating growth of a proglacial lake commenced in 1983.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2011

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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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