Determining the thickness of glaciers in regions without measurements – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Determining the thickness of glaciers in regions without measurements

Eliel Sosis

Eliel Sosis

Pronouns: he/him/his

Research Mentor(s): Jeremy Bassis, Associate Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: CLASP: Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, College of Engineering
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 2 (11am – 11:50am)
Breakout Room: Room 15
Presenter: 3

Event Link


Glacial erosion is a major contributor to the global rise in sea level so it is important to be able to predict the long-term fate of a glacier. One important factor is ice-thickness, which can in turn tell us the total volume of a glacier and how it fluctuates over time. However, although the surface elevation of glaciers can be directly measured, it is much more difficult to determine the elevation of the bed of the glacier. Direct measurements of the ice-thickness through boreholes are expensive and time-consuming, so a previous study examining the Columbia Glacier in Alaska estimated ice-thickness using the mass continuity equation between adjacent flowlines. They used available data for velocity fields covering different portions of the glacier, the surface mass balance (the difference of ice accumulation and ablation), and several digital elevation models (DEMs) over a span of about fifty years. Comparisons with existing direct measurements of ice-thickness demonstrated the accuracy of this method, but this amount of data is not available for many other glaciers around the world. We are working with the same DEMs and plotting the surface elevations in different years. We will then try to determine the ice-thickness by calculating the surface slope and driving stress of the glacier, and we will compare our results to direct measurements as well as previous studies. If this approach is successful, we can then apply it to accurately estimate the ice-thickness of glaciers for which more data is lacking.

Authors: Eliel Sosis, Jeremy Bassis
Research Method: Computer Programming

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