Geochemical characterization of supraglacial debris via in situ and optical remote sensing methods: a case study in Khumbu Himalaya, Nepal
- 1Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1047 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
- 2Department of Geography, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, UK
- 3The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), P.O. Box 156, 9171 Longyearbyen, Norway
- *now at: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
Abstract. Surface glacier debris samples and field spectra were collected from the ablation zones of Nepal Himalaya Ngozumpa and Khumbu glaciers in November and December 2009. Geochemical and mineral compositions of supraglacial debris were determined by X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. This composition data was used as ground truth in evaluating field spectra and satellite supraglacial debris composition and mapping methods. Satellite remote sensing methods for characterizing glacial surface debris include visible to thermal infrared hyper- and multispectral reflectance and emission signature identification, semi-quantitative mineral abundance indicies and spectral image composites. Satellite derived supraglacial debris mineral maps displayed the predominance of layered silicates, hydroxyl-bearing and calcite minerals on Khumbu Himalayan glaciers. Supraglacial mineral maps compared with satellite thermal data revealed correlations between glacier surface composition and glacier surface temperature. Glacier velocity displacement fields and shortwave, thermal infrared false color composites indicated the magnitude of mass flux at glacier confluences. The supraglacial debris mapping methods presented in this study can be used on a broader scale to improve, supplement and potentially reduce errors associated with glacier debris radiative property, composition, areal extent and mass flux quantifications.