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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-181
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-181
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  03 Sep 2020

03 Sep 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Mapping seasonal glacier melt across the Hindu Kush Himalaya with time series SAR

Corey Scher1,2, Nicholas C. Steiner2, and Kyle C. McDonald1,2,3 Corey Scher et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Environmental Science, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, 10031, United States
  • 2Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, The City College of New York, City University of New York, New York, 10031, United States
  • 3Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Group, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena. CA 91001, USA

Abstract. Current observational data on Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) glaciers are sparse and characterizations of seasonal melt dynamics are limited. Time series synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery enables detection of reach-scale glacier melt characteristics across continents. We analyze C-band Sentinel-1 A/B SAR time series data, comprised of 32,741 Sentinel-1 A/B SAR images, determine the duration of seasonal glacier melting for 76,831 glaciers (65,108 km2), defined using optical observations, in the HKH across the calendar years 2017–2019. Signals of melt onset and duration are recorded at 90 m spatial resolution and 12-day temporal repeat across 96.62 % (62,907 km2) of the HKH cryosphere. Melt signals persist for more than 40 % of the year at elevations below 4,000 m a.s.l. and in excess of 15 % of each year at elevations exceeding 7,000 m a.s.l. Melt retrievals resemble characteristics of glacio-climatic subregions of the HKH: melt onsets sooner and occurs for a longer portion of each year in the Central and Eastern Himalaya compared to the Western Himalaya and Karakoram regions. Retrievals of seasonal melting span all elevation ranges of significant glacier area in the HKH region, extending greater than 1 km above the maximum elevation of an interpolated 0 ºC summer isotherm. Furthermore, high elevation percolation zones are apparent from meltwater retention indicated by signals of delayed refreeze. Time series SAR datasets are suitable to support operational monitoring of glacier surface melt and the development and assessment of surface energy balance models of melt-driven ablation across the high-elevation temperate global cryosphere.

Corey Scher et al.

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Corey Scher et al.

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Latest update: 26 Nov 2020
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Short summary
Time series synthetic aperture radar enables detection of seasonal reach-scale glacier surface melting across continents, a key component of surface energy balance for mountain glaciers. We observe melting across a majority of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) cryosphere. Surface melting for the HKH lasts for close to 5 months per year on average and for just below 2 months at elevations exceeding 7,000 m a.s.l. Further, there are indications that melting is more than superficial at high elevations.
Time series synthetic aperture radar enables detection of seasonal reach-scale glacier surface...
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