P-band interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data at 5 m resolution from Kahiltna Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alaska Range, Alaska, USA, show pronounced spatial variation in penetration depth, δ P. We obtained δ P by differencing X- and P-band digital elevation models. δ P varied significantly over the glacier, but it was possible to distinguish representative zones. In the accumulation area, δ P decreased with decreasing elevation from 18±3 m in the percolation zone to 10±4 m in the wet snow zone. In the central portion of the ablation area, a location free of debris and crevasses, we identified a zone of very high δ P (34±4 m) which decreased at lower elevations (23±3 m in bare ice and 5-10 m in debris-covered ice). We observe that the spatial configuration of δ P is consistent with the expected thermal regime of each zone: δ P is high in areas where cold firn/ice likely occurs (i.e. percolation zone and upper ablation area) and low in areas where temperate surface firn/ice likely exists (wet snow zone and lower ablation area). We suggest that the very high δ P observed in the upper ablation area is due to the presence of a cold surface layer.

Citation

Gusmeroli, A., A. Arendt, D. Atwood, B Kampes, M Sanford, J.C. Young.. 2013. Variable penetration depth of interferometric synthetic aperture radar signals on Alaska glaciers: a cold surface layer hypothesis. Annals of Glaciology. Annals of Glaciology. 54: 218-223. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology/article/variable-penetration-depth-of-interferometric-synthetic-aperture-radar-signals-on-alaska-glaciers-a-cold-surface-layer-hypothesis/7B4F38A8CB42B1D2DF5D6BF9AC3A57E4. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3189/2013AoG64A114.