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Arctic MUSCOX: Assessing the changing dynamics of the surface topography and supraglacial water on the Jakobshavn Glacier, Greenland
Arctic MUSCOX (the Arctic MUltisensor Cryospheric Observation eXperiment) is a CIRES collaborative project between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado at Boulder. The scientific goal of the 2008 Greenland Ice Sheet project is to assess the total amount of surface water in a region of the Jakobshavn Isbrae in the transition zone from an ice sheet at 1200 meter elevation, to an outlet glacier at sea level. The water volume of the supraglacial lakes, and their movements across the surface are not well understood, including how much water penetrates the glacier through crevasses and moulins. These fluvial processes could increase glacial velocity by lubrication of the ice/rock sediment interface at the bottom of the ice sheet.
Key to understanding the supraglacial water storage and flow patterns is the creation of a high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM) of the glacial region by using a near-IR laser and differential kinematic GPS onboard an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The laser data will allow for an algorithm to be developed that will characterize the surface roughness and identify sections that are highly probable to develop crevasse fields, water channels, and/or moulins, any of which could remove surface water during the melt season. This project will map a square region bounded by 25 km on each side, with individual line spacing of 500 meters between tracks. By taking measurements in both the early season, May-June, and the more active melt season, July-August, it will be possible to compare the modeled vs. measured water available on top of the glacier. Additionally, key segments of the DEM will be re-flown using optical sensors for depth determination. Melt water extent, including the riverine systems will also be mapped, and a total water volume will be calculated.