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A method to estimate the ice volume and ice-thickness distribution of alpine glaciers

  • Daniel Farinotti (a1), Matthias Huss (a1), Andreas Bauder (a1), Martin Funk (a1) and Martin Truffer (a1) (a2)...
Abstract

Sound knowledge of the ice volume and ice-thickness distribution of a glacier is essential for many glaciological applications. However, direct measurements of ice thickness are laborious, not feasible everywhere and necessarily restricted to a small number of glaciers. In this paper, we present a method to estimate the ice-thickness distribution and the total ice volume of alpine glaciers. This method is based on glacier mass turnover and principles of ice-flow mechanics. The required input data are the glacier surface topography, the glacier outline and a set of borders delineating different ‘ice-flow catchments’. Three parameters describe the distribution of the ‘apparent mass balance’, which is defined as the difference between the glacier surface mass balance and the rate of ice-thickness change, and two parameters define the ice-flow dynamics. The method was developed and validated on four alpine glaciers located in Switzerland, for which the bedrock topography is partially known from radio-echo soundings. The ice thickness along 82 cross-profiles can be reproduced with an average deviation of about 25% between the calculated and the measured ice thickness. The cross-sectional areas differ by less than 20% on average. This shows the potential of the method for estimating the ice-thickness distribution of alpine glaciers without the use of direct measurements.

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References
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Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
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