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Construction of a high-resolution DEM of an Arctic ice cap using shape-from-shading

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Digital elevation models (DEMs) of ice sheets and ice caps are usually constructed from elevation data acquired from airborne or satellite-borne altimetric systems. Consequently, the DEMs have a spatial resolution of about 1km which limits their use for most glaciological and remote sensing studies. In this paper we investigated the possibility of using a shape-from-shading technique, applied to a Landsat MSS image, to create a high spatial resolution DEM of Austfonna, an ice cap in Svalbard. A high correlation (coefficient of determination = 0.85) was observed between Landsat pixel brightness values, acquired during winter, and the surface slope component parallel to the solar azimuth. This relationship was used to create a DEM by calculating surface elevation profiles across the ice cap, using low spatial resolution radio echo sounding data as tie points. The resulting DEM had an estimated rms error of about 14m, with the error occurring mostly at low spatial frequencies. Shape-from-shading produces less accurate DEMs than interferometric SAR (InSAR) techniques. Nevertheless, in scenarios for which InSAR cannot be used to construct a DEM, shape-from-shading provides an acceptable alternative.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 15, 1999

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