Elevation Changes Inferred From TanDEM-X Data Over the Mont-Blanc Area: Impact of the X-Band Interferometric Bias

Amaury Dehecq, Romain Millan, Etienne Berthier, Noel Gourmelen, Emmanuel Trouve, Vincent Vionnet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The TanDEM-X mission allows generation of digital elevation models (DEMs) with high potential for glacier monitoring, but the radar penetration into snow and ice remains a main source of uncertainty. In this study, we generate five new DEMs of the Mont-Blanc area from TanDEM-X interferometric pairs acquired in 2012/2013. We conducted a multitemporal analysis of the DEMs in comparison with two high-resolution DEMs obtained from Pléiades stereo satellite images in 2012 and 2013. A vertical precision of 1–3 m of the radar DEMs is estimated over ice and snow free areas and slopes less than 40°. DEM-derived elevation changes are compared with outputs of the snowpack model Crocus and snow accumulation measurements. The results show that at altitudes below \sim 2500-m a.s.l., the radar penetration is negligible in our study area. The DEM-derived elevation changes agree, within uncertainty, with the modeled and field snow height. At higher altitudes, the comparison between the radar and optical DEMs acquired only a few weeks apart allows estimating the interferometric bias of the X-band DEM in the dry snowpack. At 4000-m a.s.l, it reaches 4 m on average in October and February. A geodetic glacier mass balance calculated using the October radar DEM would be biased. For the least favorable case, the highly elevated Bossons glacier, the bias would correspond to 1.66-m w.e.This error is too large to derive significant annual mass balances, but similar to elevation or seasonality uncertainties if integrated over a 10-years period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalIEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2016


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