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Pre-melt-season sediment plume variability at Jokulsarlon, Iceland: a preliminary evaluation using in-situ spectroradiometry and satellite imagery

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journal contribution
posted on 06.05.2016, 10:08 by Richard Hodgkins, Robert G. Bryant, Eleanor F. Darlington, Mark A. Brandon
High-latitude atmospheric warming is impacting freshwater cycling, requiring techniques for monitoring the hydrology of sparsely-gauged regions. The submarine runoff of tidewater glaciers presents a particular challenge. We evaluate the utility of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery for monitoring turbid meltwater plume variability in the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón, Iceland, for a short interval before the onset of the main melt season. Total Suspended Solids concentrations (TSS) of surface waters are related to remotely-sensed reflectance via empirical calibration between in-situ-sampled TSS and reflectance in a MODIS band 1-equivalent wavelength window. This study differs from previous ones in its application to an overturning tidewater glacier plume, rather than one derived from river runoff. The linear calibration improves on previous studies by facilitating a wider range of plume metrics than areal extent, notably pixel-by-pixel TSS values. Increasing values of minimum plume TSS over the study interval credibly represent rising overall turbidity in the lagoon as melting accumulates. Plume extent responds principally to consistently-strong offshore winds. Further work is required to determine the temporal persistence of the calibration, but remote plume observation holds promise for monitoring hydrological outputs from ungauged or ungaugeable systems.


Financial support was provided by the School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences, Loughborough University, by the Open University, and by the Percy Sladen Memorial Fund, Linnean Society of London.



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment

Published in

Annals of Glaciology






HODGKINS, R. ... et al., 2016. Pre-melt-season sediment plume variability at Jökulsárlón, Iceland: a preliminary evaluation using in-situ spectroradiometry and satellite imagery. Annals of Glaciology, 57 (73), pp.39-46.


International Glaciological Society/Cambridge University Press (© the authors)


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