Ice-cored moraine degradation mapped and quantified using an unmanned aerial vehicle: a case study from a polythermal glacier in Svalbard

Tonkin, T.N., Midgley, N.G. ORCID: 0000-0003-0076-1785, Cook, S.J. and Graham, D.J., 2016. Ice-cored moraine degradation mapped and quantified using an unmanned aerial vehicle: a case study from a polythermal glacier in Svalbard. Geomorphology, 258, pp. 1-10. ISSN 0169-555X

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Abstract

Ice-cored lateral–frontal moraines are common at the margins of receding high-Arctic valley glaciers, but the preservation potential of these features within the landform record is unclear. Recent climatic amelioration provides an opportunity to study the morphological evolution of these landforms as they de-ice. This is important because high-Arctic glacial landsystems have been used as analogues for formerly glaciated areas in the mid-latitudes. This study uses SfM (Structure-from-Motion) photogrammetry and a combination of archive aerial and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) derived imagery to investigate the degradation of an ice-cored lateral–frontal moraine at Austre Lovénbreen, Svalbard. Across the study area as a whole, over an 11-year period, the average depth of surface lowering was − 1.75 ± 0.89 m. The frontal sections of the moraine showed low or undetectable rates of change. Spatially variable rates of surface lowering are associated with differences in the quantity of buried ice within the structure of the moraine. Morphological change was dominated by surface lowering, with limited field evidence of degradation via back-wastage. This permits the moraine a greater degree of stability than previously observed at other sites in Svalbard. It is unclear whether the end point will be a fully stabilised ice-cored moraine, in equilibrium with its environment, or an ice-free lateral–frontal moraine complex. Controls on geomorphological change (e.g. topography and climate) and the preservation potential of the lateral–frontal moraine are discussed. The methods used by this research also demonstrate the potential value of SfM photogrammetry and unmanned aerial vehicles for monitoring environmental change and are likely to have wider applications in other geoscientific sub-disciplines.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Geomorphology
Creators: Tonkin, T.N., Midgley, N.G., Cook, S.J. and Graham, D.J.
Publisher: Elsevier
Date: 1 April 2016
Volume: 258
ISSN: 0169-555X
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.12.019DOI
S0169-555X(15)30239-7Publisher Item Identifier
Rights: Copyright © 2016 Elsevier B.V. or its licensors or contributors.
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Jill Tomkinson
Date Added: 12 Jan 2016 11:48
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 13:58
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/26745

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