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Assessment of LiDAR and Spectral Techniques for High-Resolution Mapping of Sporadic Permafrost on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska

1
Department of Geosciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
2
ABR, Inc.—Environmental Research & Services, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA
3
Alaska Ecoscience, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA
4
Department of Statistics, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2018, 10(2), 258; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs10020258
Received: 24 October 2017 / Revised: 10 January 2018 / Accepted: 2 February 2018 / Published: 7 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Arctic Tundra)
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Abstract

Western Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) spans nearly 67,200 km2 and is among the largest and most productive coastal wetland ecosystems in the pan-Arctic. Permafrost currently forms extensive elevated plateaus on abandoned floodplain deposits of the outer delta, but is vulnerable to disturbance from rising air temperatures, inland storm surges, and salt-kill of vegetation. As pan-Arctic air and ground temperatures rise, accurate baseline maps of permafrost extent are critical for a variety of applications including long-term monitoring, understanding the scale and pace of permafrost degradation processes, and estimating resultant greenhouse gas dynamics. This study assesses novel, high-resolution techniques to map permafrost distribution using LiDAR and IKONOS imagery, in tandem with field-based parameterization and validation. With LiDAR, use of a simple elevation threshold provided a permafrost map with 94.9% overall accuracy; this approach was possible due to the extremely flat coastal plain of the YKD. The addition of high spatial-resolution IKONOS satellite data yielded similar results, but did not increase model performance. The methods and the results of this study enhance high-resolution permafrost mapping efforts in tundra regions in general and deltaic landscapes in particular, and provide a baseline for remote monitoring of permafrost distribution on the YKD. View Full-Text
Keywords: LiDAR; permafrost mapping; Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta; Alaska; tundra LiDAR; permafrost mapping; Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta; Alaska; tundra
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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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MDPI and ACS Style

Whitley, M.A.; Frost, G.V.; Jorgenson, M.T.; Macander, M.J.; Maio, C.V.; Winder, S.G. Assessment of LiDAR and Spectral Techniques for High-Resolution Mapping of Sporadic Permafrost on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Remote Sens. 2018, 10, 258.

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