Journal of Maps (2020-12-01)

Diverse supraglacial drainage patterns on the Devon ice Cap, Arctic Canada

  • Yao Lu,
  • Kang Yang,
  • Xin Lu,
  • Laurence C. Smith,
  • Andrew J. Sole,
  • Stephen J. Livingstone,
  • Xavier Fettweis,
  • Manchun Li

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 16, no. 2
pp. 834 – 846


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The Devon Ice Cap (DIC) is one of the largest ice masses in the Canadian Arctic. Each summer, extensive supraglacial river networks develop on the DIC surface and route large volumes of meltwater from ice caps to the ocean. Mapping their extent and understanding their temporal evolution are important for validating runoff routing and melt volumes predicted by regional climate models (RCMs). We use 10 m Sentinel-2 images captured on 28 July and 10/11 August 2016 to map supraglacial rivers across the entire DIC (12,100 km2). Both dendritic and parallel supraglacial drainage patterns are found, with a total length of 44,941 km and a mean drainage density (Dd) of 3.71 km−1. As the melt season progresses, Dd increases and supraglacial rivers form at progressively higher elevations. There is a positive correlation between RCM-derived surface runoff and satellite-mapped Dd, suggesting that supraglacial drainage density is primarily controlled by surface runoff.