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Remote Sens. 2018, 10(10), 1547; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs10101547

Detecting Short-Term Surface Melt on an Arctic Glacier Using UAV Surveys

Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
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Received: 20 July 2018 / Revised: 15 September 2018 / Accepted: 24 September 2018 / Published: 26 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Remote Sensing in Geology, Geomorphology and Hydrology)
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Abstract

Current understanding of glacier mass balance changes under changing climate is limited by scarcity of in situ measurements in both time and space, as well as resolution of remote sensing products. Recent innovations in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as structure-from-motion photogrammetry (SfM), have led to increased use of digital imagery to derive topographic data in great detail in many fields, including glaciology. This study tested the capability of UAV surveys to detect surface changes over glacier ice during a three-day period in July 2016. Three UAV imaging missions were conducted during this time over 0.185 km 2 of the ablation area of Fountain Glacier, NU. These were processed with the SfM algorithms in Agisoft Photoscan Professional and overall accuracies of the resulting point clouds ranged from 0.030 to 0.043 m. The high accuracy of point clouds achieved here is primarily a result of a small ground sampling distance (0.018 m), and is also influenced by GPS precision. Glacier surface change was measured through differencing of point clouds and change was compared to ablation stake measurements. Surface change measured with the UAV-SfM method agreed with the coincident ablation stake measurements in most instances, with RMSE values of 0.033, 0.028, and 0.042 m for one-, two-, and three-day periods, respectively. Total specific melt over the study area measured with the UAV was 0.170 m water equivalent (w.e.), while interpolation of ablation measurements resulted in 0.144 m w.e. Using UAVs to measure small changes in glacier surfaces will allow for new investigations of distribution of mass balance measurements. View Full-Text
Keywords: UAV; structure-from-motion photogrammetry; change detection; glacier melt; Canadian Arctic UAV; structure-from-motion photogrammetry; change detection; glacier melt; Canadian Arctic
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Bash, E.A.; Moorman, B.J.; Gunther, A. Detecting Short-Term Surface Melt on an Arctic Glacier Using UAV Surveys. Remote Sens. 2018, 10, 1547.

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