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A comparison of supraglacial lake observations derived from MODIS imagery at the western margin of the Greenland ice sheet

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Supraglacial lakes (SGLs) affect the dynamics of the Greenland ice sheet by storing runoff and draining episodically. We investigate the evolution of SGLs as reported in three datasets, each based on automated classification of satellite imagery. Although the datasets span the period 2001–10, there are differences in temporal sampling, and only the years 2005–07 are common. By subsampling the most populous dataset, we recommend a sampling frequency of one image per 6.5 days in order to minimize uncertainty associated with poor temporal sampling. When compared with manual classification of satellite imagery, all three datasets are found to omit a sizeable (29, 48 and 41%) fraction of lakes and are estimated to document the average size of SGLs to within 0.78, 0.48 and 0.95 km2. We combine the datasets using a hierarchical scheme, producing a single, optimized, dataset. This combined record reports up to 67% more lakes than a single dataset. During 2005–07, the rate of SGL growth tends to follow the rate at which runoff increases in each year. In 2007, lakes drain earlier than in 2005 and 2006 and remain absent despite continued runoff. This suggests that lakes continue to act as open surface–bed conduits following drainage.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2013-12-01

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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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