"Col-GaSS" - Collaboration on Glaciers and Snow/Firn Characteristics Variability Studies in Polar and Subpolar Regions

07 August 2017

Project coordinator:

Gulab Singh

Centre of Studies in Resources Engineering Indian Institute of Technology Bombay


Project partners:

Jorge Arigony-Neto

Universidade Federal do Rio Grande - FURG Instituto de Oceanografia - IO Laboratório de Monitoramento da Criosfera - LaCrio


Andrei Glazovsky

Dept. of Glaciology, Institute of Geography Russian Academy of Sciences


Funding agencies:

CNPq (Brazil), RFBR (Russia), DST (India)


Glaciers, a main source of fresh water, are one of the important components of the Earth’s hydrological cycle.

From the 19th century, almost all glaciers worldwide (that in many mountainous ranges of the world, including the Polar Regions) have been facing retreat as the result of climate change. The impact of changing climate and melting of glaciers due to rising temperature is now creating a devastating effect including a rise in sea level.

Moreover, the existing studies suggest that there is a dearth of information on glacier volume change and mass change, variation in the Equilibrium Line Altitudes (ELA), snow/firn pack variability to improve our understanding of the polar hydrology.

The proposed work will consider a detailed study of the glacier characteristics (volume & mass change, variation in ELA, snow/firn pack variability, etc.) in the Part of Union Glacier, Antarctica, glaciers of Cordillera Darwin & glaciers of Svalbard and Russian Arctic. Furthermore, the mass gained or lost can range from ice (0.917 g/cm3) to firn (0.4 - 0.83 g/cm3). Glacier facies/firn area will be included for conversion of volume to mass. However, firn density (0.4 - 0.83 g/cm3) approach of conversion volume to mass, with a constant density value, would not be encouraged. Therefore, density estimation will be achieved from polarimetric SAR data. Hitherto glacier facies/firn area application is not fully discovered for glacier dynamics in details. Hence, study on glacier facies/firn area and density will be strongly considered for improving the scientific advantage and knowledge as well as for precise conversion of volume change to mass balance.

The research will be divided into three parts, one will be related to snow/firn characteristics variability including development of density inversion algorithm and its validation, the second part will be considering the development of low-cost autonomous weather and ablation stations and their validations and third part will cover the prediction of volume and mass change of glaciers. Floating ice type classification technique will also be developed.

The Russian Team will take care of glacier volume and mass change studies and field campaigns in glaciers of Svalbard and Russian Arctic regions, while Brazilian team will investigate the glacier facies, ELA and the variability of different facies characteristics. They will also make field campaigns in the Part of Union Glacier, Antarctica and glaciers of Cordillera Darwin (South Polar/Sub-Polar regions) and develop low-cost autonomous weather and ablation stations. The Indian Team will involve in the acquisition of spaceborne Polarimetric SAR (POLSAR) and Interferometric SAR (INSAR) data sets, developing the inversion algorithm for density retrieval based on polarimetric SAR data sets, and generation the DEMs using SAR interferometry techniques. The Indian Team will also be responsible for validation of the results. Furthermore, Russian partners will be responsible for installing an additional low-cost Termochron temperature sensors (with memory for 6 months’ record logging) at Austre Grønfjordbreen Glacier on Svalbard. Brazilian partners will install low-cost ablation station at Union Glacier in Antarctica and Schiaparelli Glacier, Cordillera Darwin and will also acquire aerial photography using a drone to generate a DEM covering at least the ablation area for accessing the annual variability in glacier physical characteristics. Indian partners will participate in joint field works in Patagonia and the Russian Arctic to validate the developing low-cost weather and ablation station systems and in the processing of the high resolution drone aerial photography.