Continuous Monitoring of Greenland Outlet Glaciers Using an Autonomous Terrestrial LiDAR Scanning System: Design, Development and Testing at Helheim Glacier

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Adam L LeWinter1, David C Finnegan2, Gordon S Hamilton3, Leigh A Stearns4 and Peter J Gadomski1, (1)US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH, United States, (2)U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH, United States, (3)University of Maine, Orono, ME, United States, (4)University of Kansas, Department of Geology, Lawrence, KS, United States
Greenland’s fast-flowing tidewater outlet glaciers play a critical role in modulating the ice sheet’s contribution to sea level rise. Increasing evidence points to the importance of ocean forcing at the marine margins as a control on outlet glacier behavior, but a process-based understanding of glacier–ocean interactions remains elusive in part because our current capabilities for observing and quantifying system behavior at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales are limited. A recent international workshop on Greenland’s marine terminating glaciers (US CLIVAR, Beverly, MA, June 2013) recommended the establishment of a comprehensive monitoring network covering Greenland’s largest outlet glacier–fjord systems to collect long-term time series of critical in situ glaciological, oceanographic and atmospheric parameters needed to understand evolving relationships between different climate forcings and glacier flow. Given the remote locations and harsh environments of Greenland’s glacial fjords, the development of robust autonomous instrumentation is a key step in making the observing networks a reality.

This presentation discusses the design and development of a fully-autonomous ground-based Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system for monitoring outlet glacier behavior. Initial deployment of the system is planned for spring 2015 at Helheim Glacier in southeast Greenland. The instrument will acquire multi-dimensional point-cloud measurements of the mélange, terminus, and lower-reaches of the glacier. The heart of the system is a long-range, 1064 nm wavelength Terrestrial Laser Scanner (TLS) that we have previously used in campaign-style surveys at Helheim Glacier and at Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. We draw on this experience to design and fabricate the power and enclosure components of the new system, and use previously acquired data from the instrument, collected August 2013 and July 2014 at Helheim, to optimize our data collection strategy and design the data processing and telemetry subsystems to ensure year-round data collection.