Sensitivity of glacier volume change estimation to DEM void interpolation

Robert McNabb, Christopher Nuth, Andreas Kääb, Luc Girod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)
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Glacier mass balance has been estimated on individual glacier and regional scales using repeat digital elevation models (DEMs). DEMs often have gaps in coverage (“voids”), the properties of which depend on the nature of the sensor used and the surface being measured. The way that these voids are accounted for has a direct impact on the estimate of geodetic glacier mass balance, though a systematic comparison of different proposed methods has been heretofore lacking. In this study, we determine the impact and sensitivity of void interpolation methods on estimates of volume change. Using two spatially complete, high-resolution DEMs over southeast Alaska, USA, we artificially generate voids in one of the DEMs using correlation values derived from photogrammetric processing of Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) scenes. We then compare 11 different void interpolation methods on a glacier-by-glacier and regional basis. We find that a few methods introduce biases of up to 20 % in the regional results, while other methods give results very close (<1 % difference) to the true, non-voided volume change estimates. By comparing results from a few of the best-performing methods, an estimate of the uncertainty introduced by interpolating voids can be obtained. Finally, by increasing the number of voids, we show that with these best-performing methods, reliable estimates of glacier-wide volume change can be obtained, even with sparse DEM coverage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-910
Number of pages16
JournalThe Cryosphere
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Mar 2019


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