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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  25 May 2020

25 May 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Using ICESat-2 and Operation IceBridge altimetry for supraglacial lake depth retrievals

Zachary Fair1, Mark Flanner1, Kelly M. Brunt2, Helen Amanda Fricker3, and Alex S. Gardner4 Zachary Fair et al.
  • 1University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • 2NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
  • 3Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, CA
  • 4NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

Abstract. Supraglacial lakes and melt ponds occur in the ablation zones of Antarctica and Greenland during the summer months. Detection of lake extent, depth, and temporal evolution is important for understanding glacier dynamics, but passive remote sensing techniques have inherent uncertainties associated with depth retrievals, and observations from the original ICESat mission experienced high absorption in water. In this study, we use laser altimetry data from the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) over the Antarctic and Greenland ablation zones and the Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) for Hiawatha Glacier (Greenland) to demonstrate retrievals of supraglacial lake depth. Using an algorithm to separate lake surfaces and beds, we present case studies for 12 supraglacial lakes with the ATM lidar and 12 lakes with ICESat-2. Both lidars detect bottom returns for lake beds as deep as 7 m. Uncertainties for these retrievals are 0.05–0.20 m for ATM and 0.12–0.80 m for ICESat-2, with the highest uncertainties observed for lakes deeper than 4 m. Using ICESat-2 confidence classifications of detected photons, we found that high-confidence photons are often insufficient to fully profile lakes, so lower confidence and buffer photons are recommended for improved retrievals. Despite issues in photon classification, the altimeter results are promising, and we expect them to serve as a benchmark for future studies of surface meltwater depths.

Zachary Fair et al.

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Zachary Fair et al.

Data sets

ATLAS/ICESat-2 L2A Global Geolocated Photon Data, Version 3 T. A. Neumann, A. Brenner, D. Hancock, J. Robbins, J. Saba, K. Harbeck, A. Gibbons, J. Lee, S. B. Luthcke, T. Rebold

IceBridge ATM L1B Elevation and Return Strength, Version 2 M. Studinger

Model code and software

ICESat-2/ATM Lake Detection Algorithms Z. Fai

Zachary Fair et al.


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Latest update: 17 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Meltwater on glaciers and ice sheets may pond on ice surfaces in summer months. Detection and observations of these meltwater ponds is important for understanding glaciers and ice sheets, and satellite imagery has been used for this purpose. However, image-based methods struggle with deeper water, so we used data from the Ice, Clouds, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) and the Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) to demonstrate their effectiveness as meltwater monitors.
Meltwater on glaciers and ice sheets may pond on ice surfaces in summer months. Detection and...