Ice Velocity and Mass Balance Study of the Skelton Glacier, Antarctica, Using Remote Sensing and GIS Techniques
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Geographic Information Science
The Skelton Glacier is one of the many smaller outlet glaciers located in the Transantarctic Mountains, where it drains ice into the Ross Ice Shelf. These outlet glaciers are important when determining the past, present, and future state of the mass balance of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. This research uses satellite imagery acquired over a period of 15 years to obtain a high resolution velocity field for the Skelton Glacier which is then used to calculate the mass flux and mass balance at ten flux gates along the glacier using the input-output method. The high resolution velocity field is combined with ice thickness data and accumulation data from other sources to obtain the total mass balance.
The high resolution velocity field of the Skelton Glacier was created using European Remote-Sensing Satellite 1 and 2 (ERS-1/2) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data acquired in 1996 with the processing technique of SAR interferometry (InSAR). Because of the lack of differential InSAR pairs, new auxiliary data from the ICESat and TanDEM-X mission were included into the analysis. A velocity field was created at a spatial resolution of 50m which was validated with in situ GPS measurements from 2011/12, and compared to lower resolution velocity fields of the Skelton Glacier. The ice velocity field is at improved accuracy for this area compared to previous studies and is thought to be representative for the mean ice velocity. The analysis of ice flux at several flux gates allowed an improved error estimation of the applied technique to estimate the overall mass balance.
Mass flux estimates along the glacier were calculated using the new velocity field and additional thickness data, which was then compared to two accumulation datasets to give mass balance estimates along the glacier at selected flux gates. The mass flux through the grounding line was found to be 1.2165 Gt a⁻¹, which needs to be balanced in a state of mass balance equilibrium by a mean annual snow accumulation of about 185 mm a⁻¹ water equivalent over the total catchment area determined with 6569 km². The mass balance at the grounding line is slightly negative, but the second flux gate is thought to be more representative of the mass balance, which is estimated to be 0.0441 Gt a⁻¹. Error analysis of the mass balance estimates found uncertainties in this data to be approximately 0.110 Gt a⁻¹. It is concluded from the analysis that further improvements in the overall mass balance estimate can be primarily obtained by a better knowledge of ice thickness and snow accumulation.