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
State Key Laboratory of Geodesy and Earth’s Dynamics, Institute of Geodesy and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China
Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Publication date: December 16, 2016
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