Articles | Volume 15, issue 9
Research article
06 Sep 2021
Research article |  | 06 Sep 2021

Measuring the state and temporal evolution of glaciers in Alaska and Yukon using synthetic-aperture-radar-derived (SAR-derived) 3D time series of glacier surface flow

Sergey Samsonov, Kristy Tiampo, and Ryan Cassotto

Abstract. Climate change has reduced global ice mass over the last 2 decades as enhanced warming has accelerated surface melt and runoff rates. Glaciers have undergone dynamic processes in response to a warming climate that impacts the surface geometry and mass distribution of glacial ice. Until recently no single technique could consistently measure the evolution of surface flow for an entire glaciated region in three dimensions with high temporal and spatial resolution. We have improved upon earlier methods by developing a technique for mapping, in unprecedented detail, the temporal evolution of glaciers. Our software computes north, east, and vertical flow velocity and/or displacement time series from the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) ascending and descending range and azimuth speckle offsets. The software can handle large volumes of satellite data and is designed to work on high-performance computers (HPCs) as well as workstations by utilizing multiple parallelization methods. We then compute flow velocity–displacement time series for glaciers in southeastern Alaska during 2016–2021 and observe seasonal and interannual variations in flow velocities at Seward and Malaspina glaciers as well as culminating phases of surging at Klutlan, Walsh, and Kluane glaciers. On a broader scale, this technique can be used for reconstructing the response of worldwide glaciers to the warming climate using archived SAR data and for near-real-time monitoring of these glaciers using rapid revisit SAR data from satellites, such as Sentinel-1 (6 or 12 d revisit period) and the forthcoming NISAR mission (12 d revisit period).

Short summary
The direction and intensity of glacier surface flow adjust in response to a warming climate, causing sea level rise, seasonal flooding and droughts, and changing landscapes and habitats. We developed a technique that measures the evolution of surface flow for a glaciated region in three dimensions with high temporal and spatial resolution and used it to map the temporal evolution of glaciers in southeastern Alaska (Agassiz, Seward, Malaspina, Klutlan, Walsh, and Kluane) during 2016–2021.