Super-high-resolution Earth observation datasets of North American permafrost landscapes

tabea.rettelbach [ at ]


While temperatures are increasing on the global scale, the Arctic regions are especially vulnerable to this changing climate and landscapes underlain by permafrost experience increased thaw and degradation. The enhanced warming of organic-rich frozen ground can have severe consequences on infrastructure and ecosystems and is projected to become a highly relevant driver of greenhouse gas fluxes into the atmosphere. Degrading permafrost landscapes occur extensively in vast areas of the North American Arctic, directly affecting communities and ecosystems. To identify and quantify these widespread degradation phenomena over vast areas, we require highest-resolution Earth observation dataset that we collect during aerial imaging campaigns. We here report on observations and first results from three airborne campaigns in 2018, 2019 and 2021. We performed large-scale monitoring of permafrost-affected areas in northern Canada and Alaska, focusing on sites that experienced disturbances in the past or recently. This included sites with vulnerable settlements, coastal erosion, thaw slumping, lake expansion and drainage, ice-wedge degradation and thaw subsidence, fire scars, pingos, methane seeps, and sites affected by beaver activities. All surveys were flown with the Alfred Wegener Institute's Polar-5 and -6 scientific airplanes at 500-1500 m altitude above terrain. The onboard sensor, the Modular Aerial Camera System (MACS), a very-high-resolution multispectral camera developed by the German Aerospace Center, operated in the visible (RGB) and near-infrared (NIR) domain. From the comprehensive collection of multiple TB of gathered data, super-high-resolution (up to 7 cm/px) RGB+NIR image mosaics and stereophotogrammetric digital surface models were derived. By presenting the data and first analyses, we would like to invite the community to discuss best use for maximized benefit of the data, in order to substantially contribute to our understanding of permafrost thaw dynamics.

Item Type
Conference (Poster)
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
Publication Status
Event Details
8th ABoVE Science Team Meeting, 09 May 2022 - 13 May 2022, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA.
Eprint ID
Cite as
Rettelbach, T. , Nitze, I. , Schäffler, S. , Barth, S. , Grünberg, I. , Hammar, J. , Gessner, M. , Bucher, T. , Brauchle, J. , Sachs, T. , Boike, J. and Grosse, G. (2022): Super-high-resolution Earth observation datasets of North American permafrost landscapes , 8th ABoVE Science Team Meeting, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA, 9 May 2022 - 13 May 2022 .

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POLAR 6 > P6_219_ThawTrendR_Air_2019

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