31 Mar 2023
 | 31 Mar 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

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

Abstract. The fracturing of glaciers and ice shelves in Antarctica influences their dynamics, and may introduce as-yet poorly understood feedbacks and hysteresis into the ice sheet system. Therefore, data on the evolving distribution of crevasses is required to better understand the evolution of the ice sheet, though such data has traditionally been difficult and time consuming to generate. Here, we present an automated method of mapping crevasses on grounded and floating ice with the application of convolutional neural networks to Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar backscatter images acquired between 2015 and 2022. We apply this method across Antarctica to produce a 7-and-a-half year record of composite fracture maps at monthly intervals and 50 m spatial resolution, showing the distribution of crevasses around the majority of the ice sheet margin. We develop a method of quantifying changes to the density of ice shelf fractures using the timeseries of crevasse maps, and show increases in crevassing on the Thwaites and Pine Island ice shelves over the observational period, with observed changes elsewhere in the Amundsen Sea dominated by the advection of existing crevasses. Using stress fields computed using the BISICLES ice sheet model, we show that much of this structural change has occurred in strongly buttressing regions of these ice shelves, indicating a recent and ongoing link between fracturing and the developing dynamics of the Amundsen Sea Sector.

Trystan Surawy-Stepney et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2023-42', Anonymous Referee #1, 05 May 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2023-42', Anonymous Referee #2, 11 May 2023

Trystan Surawy-Stepney et al.

Trystan Surawy-Stepney et al.


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Short summary
The presence of crevasses in Antarctica influences how the ice sheet behaves. It is essential, 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 the majority of Antarctica. We further develop a method of measuring change in the density of crevasses and quantify increased fracturing in important parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.