Alaskan mountain glacial melting observed by satellite gravimetry

Edited: 2011-02-21
TitleAlaskan mountain glacial melting observed by satellite gravimetry
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsChen, J., B. Tapley, and C. Wilson
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Date Published08/2006
Keywordsclimate, grace, terrestrial_water
AbstractWe use satellite gravity measurements from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) as an indication of mass change to study potential long-term mountain glacial melting in southern Alaska and West Canada. The first 3.5 yr of GRACE monthly gravity data, spanning April 2002 November 2005, show a prominent glacial melting trend in the mountain regions around the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). GRACE-observed surface mass changes correlate remarkably well with available mass balance data at Gulkana and Wolverine, two benchmark glaciers of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), although the GRACE signals are smaller in magnitude. In addition, terrestrial water storage (TWS) changes estimated from an advanced land surface model show significant mass loss in this region during the same period. After correcting for the leakage errors and removing TWS contributions using model estimates, we conclude that GRACE-observed glacial melting in the GOA mountain region is equivalent to ˜ ‑ 101 ± 22 km3/yr, which agrees quite well with the assessment of ˜ ‑ 96 ± 35 km3/yr based on airborne laser altimetry data, and is consistent with an earlier estimate based on the first 2 yr of GRACE data. This study demonstrates the significant potentials of satellite gravity measurements for monitoring mountain glacial melting and regional climate change.