Airborne Validation of ICESat-2 ATLAS Data Over Crevassed Surfaces and Other Complex Glacial Environments: Results From Experiments of Laser Altimeter and Kinematic GPS Data Collection From a Helicopter Over a Surging Arctic Glacier (Negribreen, Svalbard) Journal Article uri icon



  • The topic of this paper is the airborne evaluation of ICESat-2 Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) measurement capabilities and surface-height-determination over crevassed glacial terrain, with a focus on the geodetical accuracy of geophysical data collected from a helicopter. To obtain surface heights over crevassed and otherwise complex ice surface, ICESat-2 data are analyzed using the density-dimension algorithm for ice surfaces (DDA-ice), which yields surface heights at the nominal 0.7~m along-track spacing of ATLAS data. As the result of an ongoing surge, Negribreen, Svalbard, provided an ideal situation for the validation objectives in 2018 and 2019, because many different crevasse types and morphologically complex ice surfaces existed in close proximity. Airborne geophysical data, including laser altimeter data (profilometer data at 905~nm frequency), differential Global Positioning System (GPS), Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) data, on-board-time-lapse imagery and photographs, were collected during two campaigns in summers of 2018 and 2019. Airborne experiment setup, geodetical correction and data processing steps are described here. To date, there is relatively little knowledge of the geodetical accuracy that can be obtained from kinematic data collection from a helicopter. Our study finds that (1)~Kinematic GPS data collection with correction in post-processing yields higher accuracies than Real-Time-Kinematic (RTK) data collection. (2)~Processing of only the rover data using the Natural Resources Canada Spatial Reference System Precise Point Positioning (CSRS-PPP) software is sufficiently accurate for the sub-satellite validation purpose. (3)~Distances between ICESat-2 ground tracks and airborne ground tracks were generally better than 25~m, while distance between predicted and actual ICESat-2 ground track was on the order of 9~m, which allows direct comparison of ice-surface heights and spatial statistical characteristics of crevasses from the satellite and airborne measurements. (4)~The Lasertech Universal Laser System (ULS), operated at up to 300~m above ground level, yields full return frequency (400~Hz) and 0.06-0.08~m on-ice along-track spacing of height measurements. (5)~Cross-over differences of airborne laser altimeter data are 0.1918 $pm$ 2.385~m along straight paths over generally crevassed terrain, which implies a precision of approximately 2.4~m for ICESat-2 validation experiments. (6)~In summary, the comparatively light-weight experiment setup of a suite of small survey equipment mounted on a Eurocopter (Helicopter AS-350) and kinematic GPS data analyzed in post-processing using CSRS-PPP leads to high accuracy repeats of the ICESat-2 tracks. The technical results (1)-(6) indicate that direct comparison of ice-surface heights and crevasse depths from the ICESat-2 and airborne laser altimeter data is warranted. The final result of the validation is that ICESat-2 ATLAS data, analyzed with the DDA-ice, facilitate surface-height determination over crevassed terrain, in good agreement with airborne data, including spatial characteristics, such as surface roughness, crevasse spacing and depth, which are key informants on the deformation and dynamics of a glacier during surge.

publication date

  • October 7, 2021

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • October 12, 2021 2:02 AM

Full Author List

  • Herzfeld UC; Lawson M; Trantow T; Nylen T

author count

  • 4

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