Multispectral digital image mapping of Antarctic ice features

Landsat multispectral images of the Antarctic ice sheet have been digitally enhanced by the US Geological Survey to show ice surface features not seen in earlier photographic products of the same scenes. Now for the first time it is worthwhile to prepare image maps at scales of up to 1:250 000 of ice sheet areas even where no nunataks are visible. Derivatives of the data can be stretched to bring out glaciologically significant features in smooth areas that traditionally have been described as featureless. Over large tracts of the ice sheet, the direction of ice flow can be revealed as clearly as it is by the medial moraines of an Alpine glacier system. Ice streams, ice divides, ice rises, ice rumples, grounding lines, crevasses, and rifts are seen where none had been identified before. In the same way that Seasat altimetry of the surface of the ocean has much to tell about the bed of the ocean, Landsat has much to tel! about the bed of the ice. Not only major structural features but also many details of the sub-glacial landscape are unmasked by their subtle reflection on the ice sheet surface. Ground control on ice sheets can be obtained by Doppler satellite observations tied to image-identifiable surface features. Because of ice movement, the standard of geodetic control can never approach that of conventional surveys based on rock stations. But the precise standards of conventional surveys are unnecessary for ice sheet maps.


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Authors: Swithinbank, Charles, Lucchitta, Baerbel K.

1 January, 1986
Annals of Glaciology / 8
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