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Glacier elevation changes (2012–2016) of the Puruogangri Ice Field on the Tibetan Plateau derived from bi-temporal TanDEM-X InSAR data

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This study aims to evaluate the potential of TerraSAR-X (TSX) add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement (TanDEM-X) bi-static synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data sets for the retrieval of glacier digital elevation models (DEMs) and elevation changes over mountain regions. We exploited two pairs of TanDEM-X SAR data sets acquired in 2012 and 2016 over the Puruogangri Ice Field (PIF), which is the largest modern glacier on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). Two fine-detail and high-precision DEMs for 2012 and 2016 over the PIF were generated by differential interferometric processing, and were validated against height measurements from global positioning system (GPS) and Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) altimetry, yielding a vertical accuracy of 1.91 ± 0.76 m and 1.69 ± 0.83 m, respectively. The elevation changes were derived by differencing the bi-temporal TanDEM-X DEMs and revealed predominant glacier surface thinning on the PIF. An annual surface thinning rate of −0.317 ± 0.027 m year−1 was estimated in the period 2012–2016, which is much larger than the estimate of −0.049 ± 0.200 m year−1 for the period 2000–2012 reported in previous studies. This accelerating trend of glacier surface thinning might be attributable to the continued increase in summer temperature since the 1980s and decrease in annual precipitation between two periods of investigation. This study demonstrates that comparison of the bi-temporal TanDEM-X DEMs is an efficient method for accurate and detailed retrieval of the latest surface elevation changes of mountain glaciers.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: State Key Laboratory of Geodesy and Earth’s Dynamics, Institute of Geodesy and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China 2: Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Publication date: December 16, 2016

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