Permafrost Remote Sensing


Permafrost landscape dynamics are intensifying in rapidly warming Arctic-Boreal high northern latitude regions. Relying on field studies we observed and understand a wide range of periglacial processes related to permafrost formation and thaw; however, for a comprehensive quantitative understanding of these dynamics and their impacts beyond the local plot-scale, remote sensing delivers very useful and increasingly unique insights. In addition, remote sensing often bridges the spatial and temporal gaps between field measurements and modeling by delivering spatially consistent and/or temporally continuous time series data of land cover change, permafrost landscape change, or other environmental dynamics.

We particularly focus on permafrost region landscape characteristics, land cover change, disturbances, and near-shore coastal processes using a wide range of high to moderate spatial resolution sensors (optical, hyperspectral, SAR, lidar), including satellite platforms and our AWI in-house ground-based and airplane platforms. Our observation targets include thermokarst and thermo-erosion processes, lakes and lake ice, land cover changes, frost heave and thaw subsidence, freshwater and near-shore marine aquatic environments, and a wide range of periglacial landforms. We use the remotely sensed information for the analysis of spatial distributions, patterns, and morphometries, the quantification of process rates, frequencies, and magnitudes, the assessment of change from the plot-scale to continental regions, and the scaling of field data such as carbon pools and fluxes.