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Junchao Shi, Massimo Menenti, and Roderik Lindenbergh


Glaciers in the Tibetan mountains are expected to be sensitive to turbulent sensible and latent heat fluxes. One of the most significant factors of the energy exchange between the atmospheric boundary layer and the glacier is the roughness of the glacier surface. However, methods to parameterize this roughness for glacier surfaces in remote regions are not well known. In this paper, the authors use the data acquired by Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat)/Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) laser altimetry from February 2003 to November 2004 along several tracks over glaciers of the Nyainqêntanglha range in central Tibet. The authors make a study of the waveforms measured by the ICESat/GLAS laser system over mountainous and glacial areas. The surface characteristics are evaluated within laser footprints over the glacier outlines based on the glaciological inventory of the Tibetan Plateau constructed by the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (CAREERI), Chinese Academy of Sciences. For this purpose, the authors extract waveform parameters: the waveform width, the number of modes, and the RMS width of the waveform. These parameters are compared with surface slope and roughness obtained from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radar (ASTER) Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM). Through this analysis, the impact of morphology on the returned laser waveform is shown for the Nyainqêntanglha range. The roughness and the slope of the surface can be quite significant and may contribute from several meters to tens of meters to the pulse extent. The waveform analysis results indicate that the received waveforms are capable representations of surface relief within the GLAS footprints.

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