Using climate reanalysis data in conjunction with multi-temporal satellite thermal imagery to derive supraglacial debris thickness changes from energy balance modelling

Rebecca Stewart*, Matt Westoby, Francesca Pellicciotti, Ann V. Rowan, Darrel Swift, Benjamin Brock, John Woodward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Surface energy-balance models are commonly used in conjunction with satellite thermal imagery to estimate supraglacial debris thickness. Removing the need for local meteorological data in the debris thickness estimation workflow could improve the versatility and spatiotemporal application of debris thickness estimation. We evaluate the use of regional reanalysis data to derive debris thickness for two mountain glaciers using a surface energy-balance model. Results forced using ERA-5 agree with AWS-derived estimates to within 0.01 ± 0.05 m for Miage Glacier, Italy, and 0.01 ± 0.02 m for Khumbu Glacier, Nepal. ERA-5 data were then used to estimate spatiotemporal changes in debris thickness over a ~20-year period for Miage Glacier, Khumbu Glacier and Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland. We observe significant increases in debris thickness at the terminus for Haut Glacier d'Arolla and at the margins of the expanding debris cover at all glaciers. While simulated debris thickness was underestimated compared to point measurements in areas of thick debris, our approach can reconstruct glacier-scale debris thickness distribution and its temporal evolution over multiple decades. We find significant changes in debris thickness over areas of thin debris, areas susceptible to high ablation rates, where current knowledge of debris evolution is limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-384
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Volume67
Issue number262
Early online date21 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021

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