New method for studying glaciers created in Russia
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New method for studying glaciers created in Russia

July 25, 2022

The results will provide new data on the ice blocks’ movement nature, which are the climate change indicator.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. A new method for studying glaciers’ surface using drones was proposed by scientists from the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography (MIIGAiK). According to the authors, the results of their work will provide new data on the glaciers’ movement (oscillations) nature, which are the planet’s climate change indicato. The results were published in the journal Geodesy and Cartography.

“Antarctica plays a significant role in shaping the climate of the Southern Hemisphere and the Earth as a whole. Global climate changes occurring on the planet are estimated according to the glaciers’ movement in the polar regions. The glaciers’ study has been carrying out since their discovery, and scientists are constantly looking for more accurate methods for this”, said one of the authors, the MIIGAiK’s department of photogrammetry’s associate professor Tatyana Skrypitsina.

Scientists have proposed a new research method to study changes in the glaciers’ surface: a modified pseudo-parallax method (a moving point’s shift along the coordinate axis in two images taken after a certain time interval). The proposed method makes it possible to determine the total displacement vector at a point in three coordinates.

Tatyana Skrypitsyna explained that the modified method was based on the photogrammetric pseudo-parallax method of measuring the speed and direction of glacier movement from multi-temporal images of the same area obtained by a phototheodolite from the earth’s surface.

This method was proposed and put into practice by Moscow State University professor Yuri Knizhnikov in the 1970s. According to the associate professor, in order to analyze changes in the landscape of glaciers, it is necessary to find identical elements in the images, for example, cracks’ fragments. Modern algorithms for digital images’ automatic photogrammetric processing were used for their search and measurements.

The glacier surface’s spatial displacements’ fixation occurred on orthophoto images and the glacier relief’s digital models obtained from photographs taken by unmanned aerial vehicles. Previously, such images were taken from the Earth’s surface and the results were determined by the shooting conditions and the researcher’s professional skills including the ability to measure using a stereoscopic model, while the glacier’s hard-to-reach parts remained unexplored.

The obtained results made it possible to show the glacier displacements’ distribution’s nature over ten days. The average displacement was 6.28 meters with a spread of 0.07 to 10.8 meters. New data on the nature of the increase in ice mass and the movement speed of different glacier’s parts were obtained.

“Climatic factors (temperature, precipitation, tides in the ocean, winds) directly affect the glacier’s behavior. Observations need to be continued and compared with past data to analyze how a changing climate is affecting glacier fluctuations. And it will be possible to compare the results and draw conclusions and forecasts in 8-10 years. In particular, this is very important for the sledge-caterpillar tracks’ design and laying for communication between different stations”, said Tatiana Skrypitsyna.

The scientists compared the new data from Southern hemisphere with the Fridtjof glacier’s observations’ results in the Northern hemisphere. It turned out that the movement rate and the ice mass distribution’s nature in the Arctic and Antarctic glaciers coincide.

As the authors noted, their work results can be applied not only in glaciology and climatology, but also in forecasting emergency situations on glaciers. For example, in the area where the observations were made, there is a strategically important route along which Russian sledge-caterpillar expedition trains constantly move to the glacier from Progress station to Vostok station. The glacier movement observations provide a cracks and dips formation’s prediction along the way.

In the future, the proposed method can be applied to study any objects that change in time and whose dynamics must be observed.

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Text: Ekaterina Maksimova, Photo: Nikolay Schipko

July 25, 2022

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