Airborne Scanning

Glacier Laser Altimetry - Alaska 03.11.2009

by Prof. Chris Larsen, Assistant Research Professor
Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Only a handful of glaciers in Alaska are monitored using traditional mass balance methods. Reasons for this include the difficulty in access and harsh conditions that characterize most of the glaciers in Alaska, as well as the shear size and extent of glacier ice cover in Alaska. By the early 1990’s, Keith Echelmeyer had recognized both a wide variability in Alaskan glacier response to climate change, and the possibility that Alaskan glacier contribution to global sea level rise was underestimated. A solution devised by Keith, Will Harrison and Jim Mitchell was to expand the number of sampled glaciers through the use of airborne surveys. Starting in 1993, Scientists at UAF-GI began using a laser altimetry system to measure surface elevation changes of glaciers throughout Alaska and western Canada.

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