Humbert, A; Schroder, L; Schultz, T; Muller, R; Neckel, N; Helm, V; Zindler, R; Eleftheriadis, K; Salzano, R; Salvatori, R (2020). Dark Glacier Surface of Greenland's Largest Floating Tongue Governed by High Local Deposition of Dust. REMOTE SENSING, 12(22), 3793.

Surface melt, driven by atmospheric temperatures and albedo, is a strong contribution of mass loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet. In the past, black carbon, algae and other light-absorbing impurities were suggested to govern albedo in Greenland's ablation zone. Here we combine optical (MODIS/Sentinel-2) and radar (Sentinel-1) remote sensing data with airborne radar and laser scanner data, and engage firn modelling to identify the governing factors leading to dark glacier surfaces in Northeast Greenland. After the drainage of supraglacial lakes, the former lake ground is a clean surface represented by a high reflectance in Sentinel-2 data and aerial photography. These bright spots move with the ice flow and darken by more than 20% over only two years. In contrast, sites further inland do not exhibit this effect. This finding suggests that local deposition of dust, rather than black carbon or cryoconite formation, is the governing factor of albedo of fast-moving outlet glaciers. This is in agreement with a previous field study in the area which finds the mineralogical composition and grain size of the dust comparable with that of the surrounding soils.