Journal article

Monitoring of seasonal glacier mass balance over the European Alps using low-resolution optical satellite images

  • Drolon, Vanessa LEGOS, Université de Toulouse, France
  • Maisongrande, Philippe LEGOS, Université de Toulouse, France
  • Berthier, Etienne LEGOS, Université de Toulouse, France
  • Swinnen, Else Remote Sensing Unit, Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Belgium
  • Huss, Matthias Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland - Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW), ETH Zurich, Switzerland
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  • Journal of Glaciology. - 2016, vol. 62, no. 235, p. 912–927
English We explore a new method to retrieve seasonal glacier mass balances (MBs) from low- resolution optical remote sensing. We derive annual winter and summer snow maps of the Alps during 1998–2014 using SPOT/VEGETATION 1 km resolution imagery. We combine these seasonal snow maps with a DEM to calculate a ‘mean regional’ altitude of snow (Z) in a region surrounding a glacier. Then, we compare the interannual variation of Z with the observed winter/summer glacier MB for 55 Alpine glaciers over 1998–2008, our calibration period. We find strong linear relationships in winter (mean R² = 0.84) and small errors for the reconstructed winter MB (mean RMSE = 158 mm (w.e.) a⁻¹). This is lower than errors generally assumed for the glaciological MB measurements (200–400 mm w.e. a⁻¹). Results for summer MB are also satisfying (mean R² and RMSE, respectively, 0.74 and 314 mm w.e. a⁻¹). Comparison with observed seasonal MB available over 2009–2014 (our evaluation period) for 19 glaciers in winter and 13 in summer shows good agreement in winter (RMSE = 405 mm w.e. a⁻¹) and slightly larger errors in summer (RMSE = 561 mm w.e. a⁻¹). These results indicate that our approach might be valuable for remotely determining the seasonal MB of glaciers over large regions.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
  • English
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