Interannual Dynamics of Ice Cliff Populations on Debris‐Covered Glaciers from Remote Sensing Observations and Stochastic Modeling

Kneib, M., Miles, E. S., Buri, P., Molnar, P., McCarthy, M., Fugger, S. and Pellicciotti, Francesca (2021) Interannual Dynamics of Ice Cliff Populations on Debris‐Covered Glaciers from Remote Sensing Observations and Stochastic Modeling. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 126 (10). e2021JF006179. ISSN 2169-9003

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Ice cliffs are common on debris-covered glaciers and have relatively high melt rates due to their direct exposure to incoming radiation. Previous studies have shown that their number and relative area can change considerably from year to year, but this variability has not been explored, in part because available cliff observations are irregular. Here, we systematically mapped and tracked ice cliffs across four debris-covered glaciers in High Mountain Asia for every late ablation season from 2009 to 2019 using high-resolution multi-spectral satellite imagery. We then quantified the processes occurring at the feature scale to train a stochastic birth-death model to represent the cliff population dynamics. Our results show that while the cliff relative area can change by up to 20% from year to year, the natural long-term variability is constrained, thus defining a glacier-specific cliff carrying capacity. In a subsequent step, the inclusion of external drivers related to climate, glacier dynamics and hydrology highlights the influence of these variables on the cliff population dynamics, which is usually not a direct one due to the complexity and interdependence of the processes taking place at the glacier surface. In some extreme cases (here, a glacier surge), these external drivers may lead to a reorganization of the cliffs at the glacier surface and a change in the natural variability. These results have implications for the melt of debris-covered glaciers, in addition to showing the high rate of changes at their surface and highlighting some of the links between cliff population and glacier state.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This study has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program grant agreement no. 772751, RAVEN, “Rapid mass losses of debris covered glaciers in High Mountain Asia.” This study contains atmospherically corrected RapidEye and PlanetScope data acquired from Planet Labs through the Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth, San Francisco, CA ( Thanks to Thomas Shaw for his useful inputs during the analysis and writing. Open access funding provided by ETH-Bereich Forschungsanstalten.
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2021 10:19
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2021 09:30

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