Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2022-127
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2022-127
 
04 Oct 2022
04 Oct 2022
Status: this discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

Sentinel-1 detection of seasonal and perennial firn aquifers in the Antarctic Peninsula

Lena G. Buth1, Bert Wouters2,3, Sanne B. M. Veldhuijsen2, Stef Lhermitte3, Peter Kuipers Munneke2, and Michiel R. van den Broeke2 Lena G. Buth et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 2Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Department of Physics, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 3Department of Geoscience & Remote Sensing, Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands

Abstract. In recent years, the existence of firn aquifers in the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) has been confirmed by in-situ observations. Given their importance for understanding the hydrology of the Antarctic ice sheet, a more spatially comprehensive assessment of AP firn aquifers is desirable. The purpose of this study is to map firn aquifers in the AP from space using C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery from ESA’s Sentinel-1 mission. These observations enable the detection of firn aquifers at 1 × 1 km2 resolution. The method presented here is based on quantifying the characteristic, gradual backscatter increase during the (partial) refreezing of the liquid water in the firn layer after the peak melt season. When applied to the available time series, it detects perennial aquifers (existing year-round) for the period 2017 to 2020, as well as seasonal aquifers which do not persist through winter. We acknowledge that the backscatter signature in any given year is indistinguishable for seasonal and perennial aquifers. We detect seasonal firn aquifers in the north and northwest of the AP, as well as on the Wilkins and George VI ice shelves. Only in the north and northwest of the AP, aquifers are detected each year in the observation period, here taken as a proxy for perennial firn aquifers. Both distributions agree with model simulations. Further in situ and modelling studies and longer time series of satellite observations are needed to validate the results of this study.

Lena G. Buth et al.

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-127', Isis Brangers, 24 Oct 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2022-127', Anonymous Referee #2, 07 Nov 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on tc-2022-127', Anonymous Referee #3, 20 Nov 2022

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-127', Isis Brangers, 24 Oct 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2022-127', Anonymous Referee #2, 07 Nov 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on tc-2022-127', Anonymous Referee #3, 20 Nov 2022

Lena G. Buth et al.

Data sets

Modelled and Sentinel-1 detected firn aquifers areas in the Antarctic Peninsula Lena G. Buth, Sanne B. M. Veldhuijsen, Bert Wouters, Stef Lhermitte, Michiel R. van den Broeke https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7113603

Model code and software

Sentinel-1 detection of seasonal and perennial firn aquifers in the Antarctic Peninsula Lena G. Buth https://gitlab.awi.de/lenbuth/tc-aquifers

Lena G. Buth et al.

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Short summary
Liquid meltwater which is stored in air bubbles in the compacted snow near the surface of Antarctica can affect ice shelf stability. In order to detect the presence of such firn aquifers over large scales, satellite remote sensing is needed. In this paper, we present our new detection method using radar satellite data as well as the results for the whole Antarctic Peninsula. Firn aquifers are found in the north and northwest of the peninsula, in agreement with locations predicted by models.