A high-resolution calving front data product for marine-terminating glaciers in Svalbard

Tian Li, Konrad Heidler, Lichao Mou, Adam Igneczi, Xiao Xiang Zhu, Jonathan L Bamber

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The mass loss of glaciers outside the polar ice sheets has been accelerating during the past several decades and has been contributing to global sea-level rise. However, many of the mechanisms of this mass loss process are not well understood, especially the calving dynamics of marine-terminating glaciers, in part due to a lack of high-resolution calving front observations. Svalbard is an ideal site to study the climate sensitivity of glaciers as it is a region that has been undergoing amplified climate variability in both space and time compared to the global mean. Here we present a new high-resolution calving front dataset of 149 marine-terminating glaciers in Svalbard, comprising 124 919 glacier calving front positions during the period 1985–2023 (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10407266, Li et al., 2023). This dataset was generated using a novel automated deep-learning framework and multiple optical and SAR satellite images from Landsat, Terra-ASTER, Sentinel-2, and Sentinel-1 satellite missions. The overall calving front mapping uncertainty across Svalbard is 31 m. The newly derived calving front dataset agrees well with recent decadal calving front observations between 2000 and 2020 (Kochtitzky and Copland, 2022) and an annual calving front dataset between 2008 and 2022 (Moholdt et al., 2022). The calving fronts between our product and the latter deviate by 32 ± 65 m on average. The R2 of the glacier calving front change rates between these two products is 0.98, indicating an excellent match. Using this new calving front dataset, we identified widespread calving front retreats during the past four decades, across most regions in Svalbard except for a handful of glaciers draining the ice caps Vestfonna and Austfonna on Nordaustlandet. In addition, we identified complex patterns of glacier surging events overlaid with seasonal calving cycles. These data and findings provide insights into understanding glacier calving mechanisms and drivers. This new dataset can help improve estimates of glacier frontal ablation as a component of the integrated mass balance of marine-terminating glaciers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-939
Number of pages21
JournalEarth System Science Data
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2024

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