MONITORING HANGING GLACIER DYNAMICS FROM SAR IMAGES USING CORNER REFLECTORS AND FIELD MEASUREMENTS IN THE MONT-BLANC MASSIF
Keywords: Hanging glacier, SAR images, corner reflectors, dGNSS survey, Mont-Blanc massif
Abstract. This paper focuses on the monitoring of a small hanging glacier with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images using a combination of artificial Corner Reflectors (CRs) and dGNSS field measurements. First, to test the performance of the CRs in high-resolution X-band and medium-resolution C-band images acquired by PAZ and Sentinel-1 satellites respectively, a series of tests was performed with two CRs installed in the Chamonix valley. After the confirmation of good visibility in the valley datasets from both satellites, four CRs were installed in summer 2021 on a steep (≈ 52° average slope) hanging glacier on the North face of Aiguille du Midi (3842 ma.s.l., Mont-Blanc massif). After the successful installation on the hanging glacier, all CRs were visible in both sets of images (PAZ and Sentinel-1). Using the CRs as a reference, glacier displacements were estimated in SAR images using complex cross-correlation, and validated by using ground measurements (dGNSS) and theoretical relationships between ice thickness and surface velocity. We observed average summer velocities of ≈ 0.05 m/day at the front of the glacier from field measurements and ≈ 0.04 m/day from SAR displacement estimates. The study shows the potential and limitations of using CRs as a tool for monitoring glaciers in complex topographies.