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RENOIR - Resolving the thickness of debris on Earth's glaciers and its rate of change


The effects of rock debris on the surface of glaciers form one of the key unknowns of current glacier research. One of the main research areas concerns the role of debris in modulating glacier melt, mass balance and the overall glacier response to climate: debris has been found to enhance melt when thinner than a few cm but decrease melt when thicker. Debris thickness is also highly heterogeneous, making it an important target for research. Available methods to derive its spatial distribution based on thermal images ignore its heterogeneity, rely on scarce direct observations, and cannot cope with the transient storage of thermal energy within the debris. In this project, we will advance beyond these limitations to generate a high-accuracy global estimate of supraglacial debris thickness to allow a new generation of glacier models with physical representation of debris to produce novel predictions of glacier change.