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Methodological approaches to infer end-of-winter snow distribution on alpine glaciers


Sold, Leo; Huss, Matthias; Hoelzle, Martin; Andereggen, Hubert; Joerg, Philip C; Zemp, Michael (2013). Methodological approaches to infer end-of-winter snow distribution on alpine glaciers. Journal of Glaciology, 59(218):1047-1059.

Abstract

Snow accumulation is an important component of the mass balance of alpine glaciers. To improve our understanding of the processes related to accumulation and their representation in state-of-the-art mass-balance models, extensive field measurements are required. We present measurements of snow accumulation distribution on Findelengletscher, Switzerland, for April 2010 using (1) in situ snow probings, (2) airborne ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and (3) differencing of two airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) digital elevation models (DEMs). Calculating high-resolution snow depth from DEM-differencing requires careful correction for vertical ice-flow velocity and densification in the accumulation area. All three methods reveal a general increase in snow depth with elevation, but also a significant small-scale spatial variability. Lidar-differencing and in situ snow probings show good agreement for the mean specific winter balance (0.72 and 0.78 m w.e., respectively). The lidar-derived distributed snow depth reveals significant zonal correlations with elevation, slope and curvature in a multiple linear regression model. Unlike lidar-differencing, GPR-derived snow depth is not affected by glacier dynamics or firn compaction, but to a smaller degree by snow density and liquid water content. It is thus a valuable independent data source for validation. The simultaneous availability of the three datasets facilitates the comparison of the methods and contributes to a better understanding of processes that govern winter accumulation distribution on alpine glaciers.

Abstract

Snow accumulation is an important component of the mass balance of alpine glaciers. To improve our understanding of the processes related to accumulation and their representation in state-of-the-art mass-balance models, extensive field measurements are required. We present measurements of snow accumulation distribution on Findelengletscher, Switzerland, for April 2010 using (1) in situ snow probings, (2) airborne ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and (3) differencing of two airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) digital elevation models (DEMs). Calculating high-resolution snow depth from DEM-differencing requires careful correction for vertical ice-flow velocity and densification in the accumulation area. All three methods reveal a general increase in snow depth with elevation, but also a significant small-scale spatial variability. Lidar-differencing and in situ snow probings show good agreement for the mean specific winter balance (0.72 and 0.78 m w.e., respectively). The lidar-derived distributed snow depth reveals significant zonal correlations with elevation, slope and curvature in a multiple linear regression model. Unlike lidar-differencing, GPR-derived snow depth is not affected by glacier dynamics or firn compaction, but to a smaller degree by snow density and liquid water content. It is thus a valuable independent data source for validation. The simultaneous availability of the three datasets facilitates the comparison of the methods and contributes to a better understanding of processes that govern winter accumulation distribution on alpine glaciers.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:03 Nov 2013 13:42
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 23:16
Publisher:International Glaciological Society
ISSN:0022-1430
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3189/2013JoG13J015

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