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Growth of Retrogressive Thaw Slumps in the Noatak Valley, Alaska, 2010–2016, Measured by Airborne Photogrammetry

National Park Service, Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Network, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA
Fairbanks Fodar, Fairbanks, AK, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2018, 10(7), 983;
Received: 2 May 2018 / Revised: 24 May 2018 / Accepted: 8 June 2018 / Published: 21 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Dynamic Permafrost Regions)
PDF [21090 KB, uploaded 21 June 2018]


We monitored the growth of 22 retrogressive thaw slumps (RTS), dramatic erosion features associated with thaw of permafrost, in the Noatak Valley of northern Alaska using high-resolution structure-from-motion digital photogrammetry. We created time-series of 3–6 Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) and orthophoto mosaics during the time period from 2010–2016 at each slump, using high-resolution digital single-lens reflex (SLR) photographs taken from airplanes or helicopters. DEMs created using airborne GPS camera locations were adequate to detect elevations changes as small as 10 to 15 cm. Measurements made on these DEMs and orthophotographs showed slump growth rates of up to 38 m yr−1, with the fastest rates on slumps with scarps of moderate height (1 to 4 m) exposing Pleistocene glacial ice. Most of the slumps grew at constant or declining rates during the study, apparently as a result of the slumps encountering more gentle topography as they expanded upslope. Sedimentation was predominantly on the slump floor within 40 m of the active scarp, and the zone of accumulation migrated upslope with the scarp, away from adjacent water bodies. This study demonstrates that low-cost cameras coupled with airborne GPS and no ground control are suitable for monitoring geomorphic change on the order of decimeters and are a powerful tool for monitoring in remote settings. View Full-Text
Keywords: permafrost; thermokarst; mass movement; photogrammetry; aerial photography permafrost; thermokarst; mass movement; photogrammetry; aerial photography

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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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Swanson, D.K.; Nolan, M. Growth of Retrogressive Thaw Slumps in the Noatak Valley, Alaska, 2010–2016, Measured by Airborne Photogrammetry. Remote Sens. 2018, 10, 983.

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