Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-197
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-197

  13 Jul 2021

13 Jul 2021

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

Towards ice thickness inversion: an evaluation of global DEMs by ICESat-2 in the glacierized Tibetan Plateau

Wenfeng Chen1,3, Tandong Yao1, Guoqing Zhang1, Fei Li1,3, Guoxiong Zheng2,3, Yushan Zhou1, and Fenglin Xu1,3 Wenfeng Chen et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Tibetan Plateau Earth System Science, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
  • 2Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
  • 3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Abstract. Accurate estimates of regional ice thickness, which are generally produced by ice-thickness inversion models, are crucial for assessments of available freshwater resources and sea level rise. Digital elevation model (DEM) derived surface topography of glaciers is a primary data source for such models. However, the scarce in-situ measurements of glacier surface elevation limit the evaluation of DEM uncertainty, and hence its influence on ice-thickness modelling over the glacierized area of the Tibetan Plateau (TP). Here, we examine the performance over the glacierized TP of six widely used and mainly global-scale DEMs: AW3D30 (30 m), SRTM-GL1 (30 m), NASADEM (30 m), TanDEM-X (90 m), SRTM v4.1 (90 m) and MERIT (90 m) by using ICESat-2 laser altimetry data while considering the effects of glacier dynamics, terrain, and DEM misregistration. The results reveal NASADEM as the best performer, with a small mean error (ME) of −1.0 and a root mean squared error (RMSE) of 12.6 m. A systematic vertical offset existed in AW3D30 (−35.3 ME and 34.9 m RMSE), although it had a similar relative accuracy to NASADEM (~ 13 m STD). TanDEM-X also performs well (−0.1 ME and 15.1 m RMSE), but suffers from serious errors and outliers on steep slopes. SRTM-based DEMs (SRTM-GL1, SRTM v4.1, and MERIT) (all ~ 36 m RMSE) had an inferior performance to NASADEM. However, their errors were reduced in the ablation zone when glacier variations were excluded. Errors in the six DEMs increased from the south-facing to the north-facing aspect and become larger with increasing slope. Misregistration of DEMs relative to ICESat-2 footprint in most glacier areas is small (less than one pixel). An intercomparison of four ice-thickness models: GlabTop2, Open Global Glacier Model (OGGM), Huss-Farinotti (HF), Ice Thickness Inversion Based on Velocity (ITIBOV), show that GlabTop2 is sensitive to the accuracy of both elevation and slope, while OGGM and HF are less sensitive to DEM quality, and ITIBOV is the most sensitive to slope accuracy. Considering the inconsistency of DEMs acquisition dates, NASADEM would be a best choice for ice-thickness estimates over the TP, followed by AW3D30, and TanDEM-X (if steep and high elevation terrain can be avoided). Our assessment figures out the performances of mainly global DEMs over the glacierized TP. This study not only avails the glacier thickness estimation with ice thickness inversion models, but also offered references for other cryosphere studies using DEM.

Wenfeng Chen et al.

Status: open (until 07 Sep 2021)

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Wenfeng Chen et al.

Wenfeng Chen et al.

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Short summary
A digital elevation model (DEM) is a prerequisite for estimating regional glacier thickness. In our study, we firstly examined the performance of six widely used global DEMs over the glacierized Tibetan Plateau by using ICESat-2 laser altimetry data. Our results show that NASADEM performed the best accuracy. Through an intercomparison of four ice thickness inversion models, we concluded that NASADEM would be the best choice for ice-thickness estimation over the TP.