Glacial mappings of Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica using WorldView satellites

The glacial geomorphology of western Dronning Maud Land, Antarctic

J. C. H. Newall, T. Dymova, E. Serra, R. Blomdin, O. Fredin, N. F. Glasser, Y. Suganuma, J. M. Harbor, and A. P. Stroeven

Summarized by Mia Borja

What data were used? Remote mapping was used to capture the features of Antarctician glaciers via World View-2 and 3 satellite data (satellites that capture specific spatial resolutions to create surficial mappings). These mappings were accompanied with fieldwork to give an accurate depiction of the glaciers in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica.

Methods: After gathering the data from the WorldView satellites, the glacial landforms were identified and digitized using the ESRI ArcGIS© software. Following this, two field work sessions were carried out in accessible parts of the Heimefrontfjella, Ahlmannryggen and Borgmassivet ranges. In these sessions, the previous mappings were checked for accuracy and more details, such as specific locations, and landforms, were recorded. The last step in creating a clear presentation of the area map was to transcribe the sensor bands from the WorldView. The sensor bands are data from WorldView that correspond to certain wavelengths and resolutions. These wavelengths and resolutions provide information on surface textures, materials, and sediments. 

This figure shows the mapping of a glacier in Grunehogna. It shows how detailed and high definition the Worldview mapping techniques on glaciers are. (a) shows the far-out view of where (c) and (d) are on the one glacier. (b) points out the specific features of (a). (c) and (d) identifies the texture of parts of the glacier, including patterned ground and debris.

Results: With the images collected, ten different landforms were able to be clearly identified. These ten landforms are: windscoops, crevasses, longitudinal surface structures, blue ice areas, boulders, striations, cirques (semi-circular depressions), supraglacial debris, sediment cover and patterned ground. The identification of these landforms helps glaciologists discover the effects and patterns of climate change. For example, windscoops, are concave hollows in the ice and are used to provide information on wind and slope directions. Another landform that is important to study and is now able to be analyzed is crevasses. Crevasses are cracks in the ice surface that are dangerous to step on when field teams are out on the ice. With the WorldView mappings, these locations of these crevasses are identified, which provides more safety for the team.

Why is this study important? This article shows how important updates in technology can bring in the ability to identify the physical features of Antarctic glaciers. With WorldView satellites, clearer pictures of the glaciers can be taken. This leads to more accurate data for glaciologists to determine glacial shape and features present.

The big picture: One of the greatest effects of climate change occurring in modern time is the melting of the world’s glaciers. It is important to keep mapping the glaciers and ice sheets to assess their gradual changes due to climate change. With these technologically advanced systems, glaciologists are able to analyze the ice sheets and glaciers with greater detail than ever before. 

Citation: J. C. H. Newall, T. Dymova, E. Serra, R. Blomdin, O. Fredin, N. F. Glasser, Y. Suganuma, J. M. Harbor & A. P. Stroeven (2020) “The glacial geomorphology of western Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica”, Journal of Maps, 16:2, 468-478, doi: 10.1080/17445647.2020.1761464