Satellites orbiting the earth predict sub-glacial hydrology at Matanuska Glacier!

This research advances an approach to use satellite passive microwave observations to track valley glacier snowmelt and predict timing of spring snowmelt-induced floods at the terminus.

Using 37 V GHz brightness temperatures (Tb) from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I), we monitor snowmelt onset when both brightness temperatures (Tb) and the difference between the ascending and descending overpasses exceed fixed thresholds established for Matanuska Glacier.

Melt is confirmed by ground-measured air temperature and snow wetness, while glacier hydrologic responses are monitored by a stream gauge, suspended-sediment sensors and terminus ice velocity measurements.

This research found that accumulation area snowmelt timing is correlated (R2 = 0.61) to timing of the annual snowmelt flood peak and can be predicted within ±5 days.

  

Measuring snow pit properties in the upper accumulation area of the Chugach Snowfield. 

 

 

 

Learn more by reading the journal article:  Kopczynski, Sarah, etal., (2008), Passive microwave (SSM/I) satellite predictions of valley glacier hydrology, Matanuska Glacier, Alaska, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L16502.