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Published November 16, 2009 | public
Journal Article

Monitoring migration rates of an active subarctic dune field using optical imagery


We developed a novel method to quantify subtle rates of landscape evolution using two satellite imaging systems with different viewing angles and spectral sensitivities. We selected the slowly migrating, high-latitude, subarctic Great Kobuk Sand Dunes (GKSD), Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska (USA), for our study. The COSI-Corr technique was used for precise orthorectification, co-registration, and subpixel correlation of satellite data. ASTER Visible Near Infrared (VNIR) and SPOT Panchromatic images with a 5-year temporal separation were correlated to measure the horizontal velocity of the GKSD. To reduce correlation noise, ASTER VNIR bands were linearly mixed to match the SPOT Panchromatic band, and raw correlation measurements were projected onto a local robust migration direction to estimate unbiased velocity magnitudes. The results show that the most likely migration rate for the GKSD ranges from 0.5 to 1.5 m/year, with peak velocities up to 3.8 m/year, and uncertainty of approximately 0.16 m/year. The unprecedented ability to measure slow migration rates, including those that may occur over a relatively short time interval, illustrates the value of this method to reliably detect and monitor subtle ground movements including dune migration, glacier flow, mass movements, and other small-scale processes.

Additional Information

© 2009 Elsevier Inc. Received 27 February 2009; revised 28 April 2009; accepted 13 July 2009. Available online 15 August 2009. SwRI® researchers were funded through SwRI's internal research and development program, Quick-Look Project R8002: Kobuk Valley National Park Landscape Change Detection Using Remotely Sensed Data and Geomorphologic Assessments. S. Leprince was partially supported by NSF grant EAR-0636097, and by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The background image of Fig. 1 is a composite of two Landsat datasets (Path 078; Row 013, 2002/08/30, 1985/07/06), courtesy of Global Land Cover Facility. ASTER dataset courtesy of NASA LP-DAAC, USGS and Japan's METI. SPOT Panchromatic dataset was acquired from SPOT Image Inc. We greatly appreciate the constructive comments of the anonymous reviewers and P. Vermeesch for his insightful review and suggestions. We thank E. Beverly for data reduction, A. Morris and D. Ferrill for their technical and programmatic reviews, L. Mulverhill for editorial review, and C. Patton her assistance with formatting this manuscript.

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