Mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet - a study of ICESat data, surface density and firn compaction modelling

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ICESat has provided surface elevation measurements of the ice sheets since the launch in January 2003, resulting in a unique data set for monitoring the changes of the cryosphere. Here we present a novel method for determining the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet derived from ICESat altimetry data. Four different methods for deriving the elevation changes from the ICESat altimetry data set are used. This multi method approach gives an understanding of the complexity associated with deriving elevation changes from the ICESat altimetry data set. The altimetry can not stand alone in estimating the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet. We find firn dynamics and surface densities to be important factors in deriving the mass loss from remote sensing altimetry. The volume change derived from ICESat data is corrected for firn compaction, vertical bedrock movement and an intercampaign elevation bias in the ICESat data. Subsequently, the corrected volume change is converted into mass change by surface density modelling. The firn compaction and density models are driven by a dynamically downscaled simulation of the HIRHAM5 regional climate model using ERA-Interim reanalysis lateral boundary conditions. We find an annual mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet of 210 ± 21 Gt yr-1 in the period from October 2003 to March 2008. This result is in good agreement with other studies of the Greenland ice sheet mass balance, based on different remote sensing techniques.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Cryosphere Discussions
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)2103-2141
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010

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