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Recent understanding of Antarctic supraglacial lakes using satellite remote sensing

Arthur, J.F.; Stokes, C.R.; Jamieson, S.S.R.; Carr, J.R.; Leeson, A.A.

Recent understanding of Antarctic supraglacial lakes using satellite remote sensing Thumbnail


J.R. Carr

A.A. Leeson


Supraglacial lakes (SGLs) are now known to be widespread in Antarctica, where they represent an important component of ice sheet mass balance. This paper reviews how recent progress in satellite remote sensing has substantially advanced our understanding of SGLs in Antarctica, including their characteristics, geographic distribution and impacts on ice sheet dynamics. Important advances include: (a) the capability to resolve lakes at sub-metre resolution at weekly timescales; (b) the measurement of lake depth and volume changes at seasonal timescales, including sporadic observations of lake drainage events and (c) the integration of multiple optical satellite datasets to obtain continent-wide observations of lake distributions. Despite recent progress, however, there remain important gaps in our understanding, most notably: (a) the relationship between seasonal variability in SGL development and near-surface climate; (b) the prevalence and impact of SGL drainage events on both grounded and floating ice and (c) the sensitivity of individual ice shelves to lake-induced hydrofracture. Given that surface melting and SGL development is predicted to play an increasingly important role in the surface mass balance of Antarctica, bridging these gaps will help constrain predictions of future rapid ice loss from Antarctica.


Arthur, J., Stokes, C., Jamieson, S., Carr, J., & Leeson, A. (2020). Recent understanding of Antarctic supraglacial lakes using satellite remote sensing. Progress in Physical Geography, 44(6), 837-869.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 2, 2020
Online Publication Date May 19, 2020
Publication Date 2020-12
Deposit Date Mar 5, 2020
Publicly Available Date Mar 26, 2020
Journal Progress in Physical Geography
Print ISSN 0309-1333
Electronic ISSN 1477-0296
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 6
Pages 837-869


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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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