Glacier Ice Surface Properties in South-West Greenland Ice Sheet: First Estimates From PRISMA Imaging Spectroscopy Data

Niklas Bohn*, Biagio Di Mauro, Roberto Colombo, David R. Thompson, Jouni Susiluoto, Nimrod Carmon, Michael J. Turmon, Luis Guanter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Snow and ice melt processes on the Greenland Ice Sheet are a key in Earth's energy balance and are acutely sensitive to climate change. Melting dynamics are directly related to a decrease in surface albedo, amongst others caused by the accumulation of light-absorbing particles (LAPs). Featuring unique spectral patterns, these accumulations can be mapped and quantified by imaging spectroscopy. We present first results for the retrieval of glacier ice properties from the spaceborne PRISMA imaging spectrometer by applying a recently developed simultaneous inversion of atmospheric and surface state using optimal estimation. The image analyzed in this study was acquired over the South-West margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet in late August 2020. The area is characterized by patterns of both clean and dark ice associated with a high amount of LAPs deposited on the surface. We present retrieval maps and uncertainties for grain size, liquid water, and algae concentration, as well as estimated reflectance spectra for different surface properties. We then show the feasibility of using imaging spectroscopy to interpret multiband sensor data to achieve high accuracy, frequently repeated observations of changing snow and ice conditions. For example, the impurity index calculated from multiband Sentinel-3 Ocean and Land Colour Instrument measurements is dependent on dust particles, but we show that algae concentration alone can be predicted from this data with less than 20% uncertainty. Our study evidences that present and upcoming orbital imaging spectroscopy missions such as PRISMA, Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program, Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission, and the Surface Biology and Geology designated observable, can significantly support research of melting ice sheets.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JG006718
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Greenland Ice Sheet
  • imaging spectroscopy
  • mapping glacier algae
  • optimal estimation
  • snow and ice surface properties


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