Decadal Changes in Greenland Ice Sheet Firn Aquifers from Radar Scatterometer Academic Article uri icon


  • Surface meltwater runoff is believed to be the main cause of the alarming mass loss in the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS); however, recent research has shown that a large amount of meltwater is not directly drained or refrozen but stored in the form of firn aquifers (FAs) in the interior of the GrIS. Monitoring the changes in FAs over the GrIS is of great importance to evaluate the stability and mass balance of the ice sheet. This is challenging because FAs are not visible on the surface and the direct measurements are lacking. A new method is proposed to map FAs during the 20102020 period by using the C-band Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) data based on the Random Forests classification algorithm with the aid of measurements from the NASA Operation IceBridge (OIB) program. Melt days (MD), melt intensity (MI), and winter mean backscatter (WM) parameters derived from the ASCAT data are used as the input vectors for the Random Forests classification algorithm. The accuracy of the classification model is assessed by ten-fold cross-validation, and the overall accuracy and Kappa coefficient are 97.49% and 0.72 respectively. The results show that FAs reached the maximum in 2015, and the accumulative area of FAs from 2010 to 2020 is 56,477 km2, which is 3.3% of the GrIS area. This study provides a way to investigate the long-term dynamics in FAs which have great significance for understanding the state of subsurface firn and subglacial hydrological systems.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 9

author list (cited authors)

  • Shang, X., Cheng, X., Zheng, L., Liang, Q. i., & Chi, Z.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Shang, Xinyi||Cheng, Xiao||Zheng, Lei||Liang, Qi||Chi, Zhaohui

publication date

  • January 2022