Winter mass balance of Drangajökull ice cap (NW Iceland) derived from satellite sub-meter stereo images
Abstract. Sub-meter resolution, stereoscopic satellite images allow for the generation of accurate and high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) over glaciers and ice caps. Here, repeated stereo images of Drangajökull ice cap (NW Iceland) from Pléiades and WorldView2 (WV2) are combined with in situ estimates of snow density and densification of firn and fresh snow to provide the first estimates of the glacier-wide geodetic winter mass balance obtained from satellite imagery. Statistics in snow- and ice-free areas reveal similar vertical relative accuracy (< 0.5 m) with and without ground control points (GCPs), demonstrating the capability for measuring seasonal snow accumulation. The calculated winter (14 October 2014 to 22 May 2015) mass balance of Drangajökull was 3.33 ± 0.23 m w.e. (meter water equivalent), with ∼ 60 % of the accumulation occurring by February, which is in good agreement with nearby ground observations. On average, the repeated DEMs yield 22 % less elevation change than the length of eight winter snow cores due to (1) the time difference between in situ and satellite observations, (2) firn densification and (3) elevation changes due to ice dynamics. The contributions of these three factors were of similar magnitude. This study demonstrates that seasonal geodetic mass balance can, in many areas, be estimated from sub-meter resolution satellite stereo images.