Temporal fluctuations in the motion of Arctic ice masses from satellite radar interferometry
Palmer, Steven J.
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh
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This thesis considers the use of Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) for surveying temporal fluctuations in the velocity of glaciers in the Arctic region. The aim of this thesis is to gain a broader understanding of the manner in which the flow of both land- and marine-terminating glaciers varies over time, and to asses the ability of InSAR to resolve flow changes over timescales which provide useful information about the physical processes that control them. InSAR makes use of the electromagnetic phase difference between successive SAR images to produce interference patterns (interferograms) which contain information on the topography and motion of the Earth's surface in the direction of the radar line-of-sight. We apply established InSAR techniques (Goldstein et al., 1993) to (i) the 925 km2 LangjÖkull Ice Cap (LIC) in Iceland, which terminates on land (ii) the 8 500 km2 Flade Isblink Icecap (FIIC) in Northeast Greenland which has both land- and marine-terminating glaciers and (iii) to a 7 000 km2 land-terminating sector of the Western Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). It is found that these three regions exhibit velocity variations over contrasting timescales. At the LIC, we use an existing ice surface elevation model and dual-look SAR data acquired by the European Remote Sensing (ERS) satellite to estimate ice velocity (Joughin et al., 1998) during late-February in 1994. A comparison with direct velocity measurements determined by global positioning system (GPS) sensors during the summer of 2001 shows agreement (r2 = 0.86), suggesting that the LIC exhibits moderate seasonal and inter-annual variations in ice flow. At the FIIC, we difference pairs of interferograms (Kwok and Fahnestock, 1996) formed using ERS SAR data acquired between 15th August 1995 and 3rd February 1996 to estimate ice velocity on four separate days. We observe that the flow of 5 of the 8 outlet glaciers varies in latesummer compared with winter, although flow speeds vary by up to 20 % over a 10 day period in August 1995. At the GrIS, we use InSAR (Joughin et al., 1996) and ERS SAR data to reveal a detailed pattern of seasonal velocity variations, with ice speeds in latesummer up to three times greater than wintertime rates. We show that the degree of seasonal speedup is spatially variable and correlated with modeled runoff, suggesting that seasonal velocity changes are controlled by the routing of water melted at the ice sheet surface. The overall conclusion of this work is that the technique of InSAR can provide useful information on fluctuations in ice speed across a range of timescales. Although some ice masses exhibit little or no temporal flow variability, others show marked inter-annual, seasonal and even daily variations in speed. We observe variations in seasonality in ice flow over distances of ~ 10 km and over time periods of ~10 days during late-summer. With the aid of ancillary meteorological data, we are able to establish that rates of flow in western Greenland are strongly moderated by the degree of surface melting, which varies seasonally and secularly. Although the sampling of our data is insufficiently frequent and spans too brief a period for us to derive a general relationship between climate and seasonality of flow, we show that production of meltwater at the ice surface and its delivery to the ice bed play an important role in the modulation of horizontal flow speeds. We suggest that a similarly detailed investigation of other ice masses is required to reduce the uncertainty in predictions of the future Arctic land-ice contribution to sea level in a warming world.