25 Aug 2022
25 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Brooks Range Perennial Snowfields: Extent Detection from the Field and via Satellite

Molly E. Tedesche1,2, Erin D. Trochim3, Steven R. Fassnacht4, and Gabriel J. Wolken5,6 Molly E. Tedesche et al.
  • 1US Army Corps Engineer Research and Development Center, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH, USA, and Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, Vicksburg, MS, USA
  • 2Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
  • 3Center for Energy and Power, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
  • 4Department of Watershed Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
  • 5Climate and Cryosphere Hazards Program, Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Fairbanks, AK, USA
  • 6Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA

Abstract. Perennial snowfields are a critical part of the alpine ecosystem, serving as habitat for an array of wildlife species, and influencing downslope hydrology, vegetation, geology, and permafrost. In this study, perennial snowfield extents in the Brooks Range of Arctic Alaska are derived from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and multi-spectral satellite remote sensing via the Sentinel-1 (S1) and Sentinel-2 (S2) constellations. Snow cover area (SCA) is mapped using multi-spectral analysis in S2 and via the creation of a SAR backscatter change detection algorithm with S1. Results of the remote sensing techniques are evaluated by comparison with field data acquired across multiple spatial resolutions and geographic domains, including helicopter points and manual, on the-ground collected SCA. Evaluations of the SAR change detection algorithm via comparison with results from multi-spectral imagery analysis, and field acquired data, indicate that the SAR algorithm performs best in small, focused geographic sub-domains. This may be the result of SAR algorithm dependency on thresholding and slope corrections in mountainous terrain. An alternative approach to mapping the perennial snowfields is also presented, as a synthesis of the S1 and S2 results, wherein S1 results are used to fill voids left in the S2 data from cloud masking processes.

Molly E. Tedesche et al.

Status: open (until 07 Nov 2022)

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Molly E. Tedesche et al.

Molly E. Tedesche et al.


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Short summary
Perennial snowfields in the Brooks Range of Alaska are critical for the ecosystem and provide caribou habitat. Caribou are a crucial food source for rural hunters. The purpose of this research is to map perennial snowfield extents using several remote sensing techniques with Sentinel-1 and 2. These include analysis of Synthetic Aperture Radar backscatter change and of optical satellite imagery. Results are compared with field data and appear to effectively detect perennial snowfield locations.