Constraining ice mass loss from Jakobshavn Isbræ (Greenland) using InSAR-measured crustal uplift

Lin Liu, John Wahr, Ian Howat, Shfaqat Abbas Khan, Ian Joughin, Masato Furuya

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Jakobshavn Isbræ in west Greenland has been undergoing dramatic thinning since 1997. Applying the interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) technique to Radarsat-1 SAR data, we measure crustal uplift near Jakobshavn Isbræ caused by recent ice mass loss. The crustal uplift is predominantly at long spatial wavelengths (larger than 10 km), and thus is difficult to separate from InSAR orbit errors. We reduce the effects of orbit errors by removing long-wavelength deformation signals using conventional InSAR baseline fitting methods. We find good agreement between the remaining short-scale InSAR-estimated deformation rates during 2004–2008 and the corresponding short-scale components of a deformation model that is based on changes in ice elevation measured by NASA’s Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM). We are also able to use the InSAR-measured deformation to invert for the spatial pattern of ice thinning. Overall, our results suggest that despite the inherent difficulties of working with a signal that has significant large-scale components, InSAR-measured crustal deformation can be used to study the ice mass loss of a rapidly thinning glacier and its surrounding catchment, providing both a constraint on any existing model of ice mass loss and a data source that can be used to invert for ice mass loss. These new applications of InSAR can help to better understand a glacier’s rapid response to a warming climate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)994-1006
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Arctic region
  • Space geodetic surveys
  • Kinematics of crustal and mantle deformation
  • Radar interferometry
  • Glaciology


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