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Variable penetration depth of interferometric synthetic aperture radar signals on Alaska glaciers: a cold surface layer hypothesis

  • Alessio Gusmeroli (a1), Anthony Arendt (a2), Donald Atwood (a2), Bert Kampes (a3), Mark Sanford (a3) and Joanna C. Young (a2)...

Abstract

P-band interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data at 5 m resolution from Kahiltna Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alaska Range, Alaska, USA, show pronounced spatial variation in penetration depth, δP. We obtained δP by differencing X- and P-band digital elevation models. δP varied significantly over the glacier, but it was possible to distinguish representative zones. In the accumulation area, δP decreased with decreasing elevation from 18 ± 3 m in the percolation zone to 10 ± 4 m in the wet snow zone. In the central portion of the ablation area, a location free of debris and crevasses, we identified a zone of very high δP (34 ± 4 m) which decreased at lower elevations (23 ± 3 m in bare ice and 5-10m in debris-covered ice). We observe that the spatial configuration of δP is consistent with the expected thermal regime of each zone: δP is high in areas where cold firn/ice likely occurs (i.e. percolation zone and upper ablation area) and low in areas where temperate surface firn/ice likely exists (wet snow zone and lower ablation area). We suggest that the very high δP observed in the upper ablation area is due to the presence of a cold surface layer.

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Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
  • URL: /core/journals/annals-of-glaciology
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