Retreating Ice: The Beginnings of Discovery

Category: Detecting Land Cover Change & Disturbances
Project Team: Northern Great Plains Water Resources
Team Location: Wise County Clerk of Court’s Office – Wise, Virginia

Retreating Ice: The Beginnings of Discovery. Image Credit: Northern Great Plains Water Resources Team

Retreating Ice: The Beginnings of Discovery. Image Credit: Northern Great Plains Water Resources Team

Authors:
Anne Gale
Michael Brooke
Xin Hong
Cody Vineyard

Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center)
Dr. DeWayne Cecil (NOAA NCEI, Global Science and Technology)
Bob VanGundy (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise)
Mike Bender (Wise County, Virginia)

Past/Other Contributors:
Sean McCartney (Center Lead)

Abstract:

National Parks in the Intermountain region of the northern United States Great Plains are experiencing snow and ice melt due to changes in climate. As the ice recedes, it has the potential to reveal previously undiscovered archaeological sites. Therefore, investigating the changes of Persistent Ice and Snow Cover (PISC) in this region is crucial to identifying archaeological sites. To address the changes of PISC, a two-phase methodology was implemented: 1) map the PISC in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado over the period from 1998 to 2014 using Landsat scenes; and 2) detect the changes of PISC over time. This research was a case study to document the retreat of PISC in the Intermountain National Parks, namely Rocky Mountain National Park, by applying NASA Earth observations. This research also can aid in testing hypotheses about the drivers of human behavioral variability and support the National Park Service in its mission to mitigate impacts of climate change to mountain cultural heritage resources.

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15 Comments

Daryl Ann Winstead (Mekong River Basin Agriculture) 18-08-2016, 16:58

Interesting project! Were the glacier/ice pack observation data provided by the project partners used to conduct an accuracy assessment? Thank you in advance for your feedback!

Reply
Xin Hong (project participant) 19-08-2016, 12:40

Hello, this is a great question! The field collected persistent ice and snow cover data provided by the project partner was used to compare with the glacier/ice pack observed by Landsat (our researched glaciers). It assists Rocky Mountain National Park Service (the partner) to identify additional glaciers and complete the glacier archive.
As for accuracy assessment, it was a challenge for our team to because the ground surveyed glacier/ice pack data was collected in different years (some were beyond our study years). Accuracy assessment would be an area to be improved for this project.

Thanks,
Xin

Reply
Michael Brooke 19-08-2016, 19:16

Hi Daryl Ann,

Thanks for the question! Unfortunately there was not really a means to perform any sort of quantifiable accuracy assessment. The glacier data provided by our partners was compiled over multiple years, so making a comparison between our PISC data and the layer provided by Rocky Mountain National Park (ROMO) would not have yielded any meaningful results.

We did compare our Snow Frequency product (produced after the video) to the ROMO glacier layer and the results lined up well, but again could not be quantified with any accuracy.

Thanks!

Reply
Anne Gale 19-08-2016, 19:33

Hi Daryl Ann,

We did have ground truth provided by our partners at Rocky Mountain National Park. Our partners did not know when their data was collected, so we did not consider using it as an accuracy assessment. We wanted to compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges. I like the way DEVELOP builds capacity in both our participants and in our end users.

Thanks for your interest in our project!
Anne

Reply
Amber Jones 17-08-2016, 14:17

Love seeing DEVELOP use these technologies to address cultural heritage. There are a lot of applications that could be made in that area.
Nice job!

Reply
Amber Jones 17-08-2016, 14:20

Oh, also, question!

How does a satellite detect ice/snow?

Reply
Xin Hong (project participant) 19-08-2016, 18:27

Hi, we used Landsat green band and short wave infrared band to derive Normalized Difference Snow Index (an index which can differentiate glacier/snow areas from non-snow areas), and then certain thresholds were set for this index to classify the ice/snow.

Thanks,
Xin

Reply
Anne Gale 19-08-2016, 18:57

Hi Amber,

Thanks for you interest in our project! It was fun using science and technology to address cultural heritage issues. We used a snow fraction to determine if the area was an ice field or glacier. If the pixel (the 30 meter square picture the satellite “sees”) was over 80% snow then it was considered a glacier. If the pixel was between 40% – 80% snow then we considered it an ice field. If the pixel was less than 40% then we considered the area free of snow and ice. I hope that answers your question, if not, please let me know.

Thanks,
Anne

Reply
Darius Hixon 16-08-2016, 11:21

Did you all consider modeling into the future to predict areas at risk for further ice melt?

Reply
Anne Gale 17-08-2016, 12:42

Hi Darius,

This was the first of a two term project. Our goal for this term was to lay the groundwork. Yes, one of the objects for the second term is to create a forecast model for the future ice melt.

Thanks for your interest in our project!
Anne

Reply
Sara Lubkin 15-08-2016, 18:54

Hi, Wise County. This is really interesting! What were the biggest challenges for you?

Reply
Anne Gale 17-08-2016, 13:00

Hi Sara,

Our biggest challenges were cloud cover and available Landsat scenes. Landsat images are taken once every 16 days for the same location on Earth. Since our study period occurred during summer months, clouds were very common. Landsat has a challenging time distinguishing between white cloud cover and white glaciers. This is the first of a two term project. The second team will probably add images from Sentinel for a more complete picture.

Thanks for your interest in our project!
Anne

Reply
Kathleen Gale 14-08-2016, 09:59

Great job Mom, Xin, Cody, and Michael!

Reply
Kevin Burke 12-08-2016, 10:49

Really loved this presentation and your research. The presentation is really dynamic and flows smoothly from one idea to the next. I especially love how the images and narration are so perfectly synced up, it really reinforces what each of you are talking about. But above all, I’m pleased with what I learned from the presentation, seeing how your project was able to help NPS with its goals and obviously how you’ve been able to add to the body of climate change research. Impressive work. Thanks for sharing it.

Reply
Mark Vineyard 12-08-2016, 07:21

Interesting, nice presentation.

Reply

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