Articles | Volume 17, issue 10
Research article
 | Highlight paper
19 Oct 2023
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 19 Oct 2023

Mapping Antarctic crevasses and their evolution with deep learning applied to satellite radar imagery

Trystan Surawy-Stepney, Anna E. Hogg, Stephen L. Cornford, and David C. Hogg

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Cited articles

Albrecht, T. and Levermann, A.: Fracture field for large-scale ice dynamics, J. Glaciol., 58, 165–176,, 2012. a
Alley, K., Scambos, T., Miller, J., Long, D., and MacFerrin, M.: Quantifying vulnerability of Antarctic ice shelves to hydrofracture using microwave scattering properties, Remote Sens. Environ., 210, 297–306,, 2018. a
Alley, K. E., Scambos, T. A., Alley, R. B., and Holschuh, N.: Troughs developed in ice-stream shear margins precondition ice shelves for ocean-driven breakup, Sci. Adv., 5, eaax2215,, 2019. a
Bassis, J. and Ma, Y.: Evolution of basal crevasses links ice shelf stability to ocean forcing, Earth Planet. Sc. Lett., 409, 203–211,, 2015. a
Benn, D. I. and Evans, D. J.: Glaciers & glaciation, Routledge,, 2014. a, b
This research is part of an exciting advancement in the field of glaciology, driven by machine learning. The study focuses on crevasse detection, a highly relevant topic from a scientific and logistic perspective. Crevasses may aid surface meltwater to penetrate through the ice thus impacting ice dynamics. Crevasses also pose a logistical challenge for fieldwork in the polar regions. In this study, the authors are able to automatically spot grounded crevasses using a Convolutional Neural Networks algorithm. One of the focus areas is the Thwaites Glacier, an area that has recently been subject to extensive scientific research due to its importance for the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Short summary
The presence of crevasses in Antarctica influences how the ice sheet behaves. It is important, therefore, to collect data on the spatial distribution of crevasses and how they are changing. We present a method of mapping crevasses from satellite radar imagery and apply it to 7.5 years of images, covering Antarctica's floating and grounded ice. We develop a method of measuring change in the density of crevasses and quantify increased fracturing in important parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.