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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.

  07 Aug 2020

07 Aug 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Observing traveling waves in glaciers with remote sensing: New flexible time series methods and application to Sermeq Kujalleq (Jakobshavn Isbræ), Greenland

Bryan Riel1, Brent Minchew1, and Ian Joughin2 Bryan Riel et al.
  • 1Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 2Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

Abstract. The recent influx of remote sensing data provides new opportunities for quantifying spatiotemporal variations in glacier surface velocity and elevation fields. Here, we introduce a flexible time series reconstruction and decomposition technique for forming continuous, time-dependent surface velocity and elevation fields from discontinuous data and partitioning these time series into short- and long-term variations. The time series reconstruction consists of a sparsity-regularized least squares regression for modeling time series as a linear combination of generic basis functions of multiple temporal scales, allowing us to capture complex variations in the data using simple functions. We apply this method to the multitemporal evolution of Sermeq Kujalleq (Jakobshavn Isbrae), Greenland. Using 555 ice velocity maps generated by the Greenland Ice Mapping Project and covering the period 2009–2019, we show that the amplification in seasonal velocity variations in 2012–2016 was coincident with a longer-term speedup initiating in 2012. Similarly, the reduction in post-2017 seasonal velocity variations was coincident with a longer-term slowdown initiating around 2017. To understand how these perturbations propagate through the glacier, we introduce an approach for quantifying the spatially varying and frequency-dependent phase velocities and attenuation length scales of the resulting traveling waves. We hypothesize that these traveling waves are predominantly kinematic waves based on their long periods, coincident changes in surface velocity and elevation, and connection with variations in the terminus position. This ability to quantify wave propagation enables an entirely new framework for studying glacier dynamics using remote sensing data.

Bryan Riel et al.

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Bryan Riel et al.

Video supplement

Animation of time-dependent velocity magnitudes for Sermeq Kujalleq (Jakobshavn Isbræ) from 2009 - 2019. Bryan Riel, Brent Minchew and Ian Joughin

Bryan Riel et al.


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Latest update: 23 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The availability of large volumes of publicly available remote sensing data over terrestrial glaciers provides new opportunities for studying the response of glaciers to a changing climate. We present an efficient method for tracking changes in glacier speeds at high spatial- and temporal-resolutions from surface observations, demonstrating the recovery of traveling waves over Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland. Quantification of wave properties may ultimately enhance understanding of glacier dynamics.
The availability of large volumes of publicly available remote sensing data over terrestrial...