University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Scott Polar Research Institute - Physical Sciences Seminar > Remote sensing of Greenland tidewater glaciers

Remote sensing of Greenland tidewater glaciers

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Recent years have seen large losses in the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet, with flux lost at the calving margins of tidewater outlet glaciers a significant component of these losses. Ice-sheet calving processes and interactions between ice and ocean, however, are still not well understood and in-situ observations in the critical ice-front regions are difficult and dangerous to obtain. This seminar will show the various roles that satellite observations have to play in underpinning attempts to advance understanding of calving processes. To begin with I will summarise some recent work which made use of data from the early LandSAT archive through to more recent Envisat SAR imagery. The results highlight the onset of changing tidewater glacier dynamics around Greenland, and the coincidence of change with warming atmosphere and ocean temperatures. These long time series of broad-scale data can provide empirical evidence for the influence of atmosphere and ocean on glacier dynamics. Next I will present some data of much higher temporal sampling – Envisat ASAR Wide Swath Mode data. These data begin to capture continuous observations of calving and allow differences in calving characteristics to be identified between, for example, Helheim and Kangerdugssuq glaciers in east Greenland. This type of data can be used to inform empirical or parametrised models of calving behaviour. Progressing towards a mechanistic calving model requires improved spatial resolution. TanDEM-X (launched in 2010) and TerraSAR-X (2007) are providing extremely high-spatial resolution SAR data. These data will ultimately be used to generate an interferometric global digital elevation model (DEM). However, by processing data ourselves we are able to create DEM time series at 11-day repeat intervals and an extraordinary 2 m spatial resolution over ‘supersites’ such as Helheim and Kangerdlugssuaq. I will conclude by presenting some of these DEMs and also feature-tracked surface velocity fields based on the same data.

This talk is part of the Scott Polar Research Institute - Physical Sciences Seminar series.

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