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Title: Multispectral classification and reflectance of glaciers : in situ data collection, satellite data algorithm development, and application in Iceland & Svalbard
Author: Pope, Allen J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2013
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Glaciers and ice caps (GIC) are central parts of the hydrological cycle, are key to understanding regional and global climate change, and are important contributors to global sea level rise, regional water resources and local biodiversity. Multispectral (visible and near-infrared) remote sensing has been used for studying GIC and their changing characteristics for several decades. Glacier surfaces can be classified into a range of facies, or zones, which can be used as proxies for annual mass balance and also play a significant role in understanding glacier energy balance. However, multispectral sensors were not designed explicitly for snow and ice observation, so it is not self-evident that they should be optimal for remote sensing of glaciers. There are no universal techniques for glacier surface classification which have been optimized with in situ reflectance spectra. Therefore, the roles that the various spectral, spatial, and radiometric properties of each sensor play in the success and output of resulting classifications remain largely unknown. Therefore, this study approaches the problem from an inverse perspective. Starting with in situ reflectance spectra from the full range of surfaces measured on two glaciers at the end of the melt season in order to capture the largest range of facies (Midtre Lovénbreen, Svalbard & Langjökull, Iceland), optimal wavelengths for glacier facies identification are investigated with principal component analysis. Two linear combinations are produced which capture the vast majority of variance in the data; the first highlights broadband albedo while the second emphasizes the difference in reflectance between blue and near-infrared wavelengths for glacier surface classification. The results confirm previous work which limited distinction to snow, slush, and ice facies. Based on these in situ data, a simple, and more importantly completely transferrable, classification scheme for glacier surfaces is presented for a range of satellite multispectral sensors. Again starting with in situ data, application of relative response functions, scaling factors, and calibration coefficients shows that almost all simulated multispectral sensors (at certain gain settings) are qualified to classify glacier accumulation and ablation areas but confuse classification of partly ash-covered glacier surfaces. In order to consider the spatial as well as the spectral properties of multispectral sensors, airborne data are spatially degraded to emulate satellite imagery; while medium-resolution sensors (~20-60 m) successfully reproduce high-resolution (2 m) observations, low-resolution sensors (i.e. 250 m+) are unable to do so. These results give confidence in results from current sensors such as ASTER and Landsat ETM+ as well as ESA’s upcoming Sentinel-2 and NASA’s recently launched LDCM. In addition, images from the Landsat data archive are used to classify glacier facies and calculate the albedo of glaciers on the Brøgger Peninsula, Svalbard. The time series is used to observe seasonal and interannual trends and investigate the role of melt-albedo feedback in thinning of Svalbard glaciers. The dissertation concludes with recommendations for glacier surface classification over a range of current and future multispectral sensors. Application of the classification schemes suggested should help to improve the understanding of recent and continuing change to GIC around the world.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Cambridge ; National Science Foundation ; Natural Environment Research Council ; Sigma Xi ; Norwegian Marshall Fund ; Explorers Club ; National Geographic Society Young Explorers Program ; Scott Polar Research Institute
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Multispectral ; Landsat ; Glaciers ; Remote sensing ; Albedo ; Classification ; Iceland ; Svalbard