A Novel Remote Sensing Approach for Determining 20th Century Multi-Decadal Glacial Change Across the Antarctic Peninsula

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Pauline E. Miller1, Jon P Mills2, Adrian J Fox3, Lucy E Clarke3 and Matt A King4, (1)Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1, United Kingdom, (2)Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom, (3)NERC British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom, (4)University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
The Antarctic Peninsula (AP) is a mountain glacier system comprised of over 400 glaciers, and is an important contributor to historical and future sea level rise. Assessment and monitoring of AP glaciers is crucial for understanding sensitivity to climate change. However, whilst retreat of glacier fronts and the behaviour of individual glaciers has been extensively documented, wide-area assessment of AP glacier mass change is lacking. This research addresses this by unlocking a unique historical archive of aerial imagery through a remote sensing approach. This is enabling quantitative, wide-area assessment of glacier change across the AP.

Understanding AP change over the 20th Century is vital for modelling future changes. However, satellite measurements span only a few decades, and to-date there has been no means of quantifying change over longer periods. However, this research presents a novel methodology to extract 3D measurements from an archive of > 30,000 aerial images dating back to the 1940s. This overcomes the requirement for ground control by employing an automated registration technique. Control is derived from digital elevations models (DEMs) generated from present-day ASTER satellite imagery. Through least squares surface matching, DEMs extracted from archival imagery are registered to scale-stable ASTER DEMs to determine relative change. This minimises offsets between the two DEMs, allowing robust determination of elevation changes. The spatial pattern of 20thC change is being assessed at 50 benchmark glaciers distributed across the AP, for periods of up to 65 years. In complement, a temporally refined assessment is being undertaken at 10 glaciers with multiple epochs of aerial imagery. Results to-date indicate a general trend of surface lowering, most notably over frontal regions. Spatial and temporal patterns of change will be used to investigate the drivers of AP change and establish a suite of benchmark glaciers for future monitoring.