Glacier mass-balance determination by remote sensing and high-resolution modelling

Alun Hubbard*, Ian Willis, Martin Sharp, Douglas Mair, Peter Nienow, Bryn Hubbard, Heinz Blatter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (SciVal)


An indirect methodology for determining the distribution of mass balance at high spatial resolution using remote sensing and ice-flow modelling is presented. The method, based on the mass-continuity equation, requires two datasets collected over the desired monitoring interval: (i) the spatial pattern of glacier surface-elevation change, and (ii) the mass-flux divergence field. At Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Valais, Switzerland, the mass-balance distribution between September 1992 and September 1993 is calculated at 20 m resolution from the difference between the pattern of surface-elevation change derived from analytical photogrammetry and the mass-flux divergence field determined from three-dimensional, numerical flow modelling constrained by surface-velocity measurements. The resultant pattern of mass balance is almost totally negative, showing a strong dependence on elevation, but with large localized departures. The computed distribution of mass balance compares well (R2 = 0.91) with mass-balance measurements made at stakes installed along the glacier centre line over the same period. Despite the highly optimized nature of the flow-modelling effort employed in this study, the good agreement indicates the potential this method has as a strategy for deriving high spatial and temporal-resolution estimates of mass balance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-498
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number154
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2000


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