Short-term variations of Icelandic ice cap mass inferred from cGPS coordinate time series


Compton, Kathleen
Bennett, Richard A.
Hreinsdóttir, Sigrún
van Dam, Tonie
Bordoni, Andrea; Barletta, Valentina; and Spada, Giorgio

As the global climate changes, understanding short-term variations in water storage is increasingly important. Continuously operating Global Positioning System (cGPS) stations in Iceland record annual periodic motion—the elastic response to winter accumulation and spring melt seasons—with peak-to-peak vertical amplitudes over 20 mm for those sites in the Central Highlands. Here for the first time for Iceland, we demonstrate the utility of these cGPS-measured displacements for estimating seasonal and shorter-term ice cap mass changes. We calculate unit responses to each of the five largest ice caps in central Iceland at each of the 62 cGPS locations using an elastic half-space model and estimate ice mass variations from the cGPS time series using a simple least squares inversion scheme. We utilize all three components of motion, taking advantage of the seasonal motion recorded in the horizontal. We remove secular velocities and accelerations and explore the impact that seasonal motions due to atmospheric, hydrologic, and nontidal ocean loading have on our inversion results. Our results match available summer and winter mass balance measurements well, and we reproduce the seasonal stake-based observations of loading and melting within the 1 math formula confidence bounds of the inversion. We identify nonperiodic ice mass changes associated with interannual variability in precipitation and other processes such as increased melting due to reduced ice surface albedo or decreased melting due to ice cap insulation in response to tephra deposition following volcanic eruptions, processes that are not resolved with once or twice-yearly stake measurements.

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Figure 3. Seasonal amplitudes. Amplitudes of cGPS-measured seasonal peak-to-peak ground motion in the vertical (top) and horizontal (bottom) components before (left-hand side) and after (right-hand side) removing seasonal displacements due to loading by ocean bottom pressure, atmospheric pressure, and continental water storage (values reported in Table 2). In the vertical, the color bar indicates magnitude, while the size of the symbol is inversely proportional to the uncertainty of the amplitude estimate.

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Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems - DOI: 10.1002/2017GC006831