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Derivation and validation of supraglacial lake volumes on the Greenland Ice Sheet from high-resolution satellite imagery

Moussavi, Mahsa S., Abdalati, Waleed, Pope, Allen, Scambos, Ted, Tedesco, Marco, MacFerrin, Michael, Grigsby, Shane
Remote sensing of environment 2016 v.183 pp. 294-303
hydrology, ice, lakes, melting, models, multispectral imagery, reflectance, remote sensing, snowmelt, watersheds, Greenland
Supraglacial meltwater lakes on the western Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) are critical components of its surface hydrology and surface mass balance, and they also affect its ice dynamics. Estimates of lake volume, however, are limited by the availability of in situ measurements of water depth, which in turn also limits the assessment of remotely sensed lake depths. Given the logistical difficulty of collecting physical bathymetric measurements, methods relying upon in situ data are generally restricted to small areas and thus their application to large-scale studies is difficult to validate. Here, we produce and validate spaceborne estimates of supraglacial lake volumes across a relatively large area (1250km2) of west Greenland's ablation region using data acquired by the WorldView-2 (WV-2) sensor, making use of both its stereo-imaging capability and its meter-scale resolution. We employ spectrally-derived depth retrieval models, which are either based on absolute reflectance (single-channel model) or a ratio of spectral reflectances in two bands (dual-channel model). These models are calibrated by using WV-2 multispectral imagery acquired early in the melt season and depth measurements from a high resolution WV-2 DEM over the same lake basins when devoid of water. The calibrated models are then validated with different lakes in the area, for which we determined depths. Lake depth estimates based on measurements recorded in WV-2's blue (450–510nm), green (510–580nm), and red (630–690nm) bands and dual-channel modes (blue/green, blue/red, and green/red band combinations) had near-zero bias, an average root-mean-squared deviation of 0.4m (relative to post-drainage DEMs), and an average volumetric error of <1%. The approach outlined in this study – image-based calibration of depth-retrieval models – significantly improves spaceborne supraglacial bathymetry retrievals, which are completely independent from in situ measurements.