Three Decades of Volume Change of a Small Greenlandic Glacier Using Ground Penetrating Radar, Structure from Motion, and Aerial Photogrammetry

M. Marcer, Peter Alexander Stentoft, Elisa Bjerre, E. Cimoli, A. A. Bjørk, Lars Stenseng, Horst Machguth

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Glaciers in the Arctic are losing mass at an increasing rate. Here we use surface topography derived from Structure from Motion (SfM) and ice volume from ground penetrating radar (GPR) to describe the 2014 state of Aqqutikitsoq glacier (2.85 km) on Greenland's west coast. A photogrammetrically derived 1985 digital elevation model (DEM) was subtracted from a 2014 DEM obtained using land-based SfM to calculate geodetic glacier mass balance. Furthermore, a detailed 2014 ground penetrating radar survey was performed to assess ice volume. From 1985 to 2014, the glacier has lost 49.8 ± 9.4 10 m of ice, corresponding to roughly a quarter of its 1985 volume (148.6 ± 47.6 10 m) and a thinning rate of 0.60 ± 0.11 m a. The computations are challenged by a relatively large fraction of the 1985 DEM (∼50% of the glacier surface) being deemed unreliable owing to low contrast (snow cover) in the 1985 aerial photography. To address this issue, surface elevation in low contrast areas was measured manually at point locations and interpolated using a universal kriging approach. We conclude that ground-based SfM is well suited to establish high-quality DEMs of smaller glaciers. Provided favorable topography, the approach constitutes a viable alternative where the use of drones is not possible. Our investigations constitute the first glacier on Greenland's west coast where ice volume was determined and volume change calculated. The glacier's thinning rate is comparable to, for example, the Swiss Alps and underlines that arctic glaciers are subject to fast changes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)411-425
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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