Seven new projects for 2016
This past year was a busy one for Fairbanks Fodar, but next year is showing signs of being even busier. Here is a preview of what’s on the calendar already for 2016.
Mapping in Denali National Park.
Denali National Park (DENA) hired Fairbanks Fodar to map over 4000 square kilometers of the Park at 25 cm GSD, plus map the 92 mile Park Road twice at 10 cm. In recent years, the road has suffered from landslides and washouts, so we want to acquire time-series of maps to detect where the next issues will occur and plan for them. We have previously mapped smaller sections of the road several times since 2014 and this year we mapped the entire road corridor for these same purposes. The large block essentially covers the watershed for the road and represents about 20% of the entire park lands, from the flanks of Denali north. Besides facilitating infrastructure maintenance and hazards assessment, this large block will serve as a baseline for assessing the impacts of climate change on the landscape, such as through glacier and permafrost melt, vegetation change, river erosion, and other geomorphological dynamics.
Mapping thermokarst in the Noatak Valley
Through a competitive RFP, Fairbanks Fodar was selected to map several active thermokarst sites in the Noatak Valley by the Arctic Network of National Parks. We mapped these thermokarsts first in 2011 and then some of them again in 2013 and 2014. Here it would seem that the valley is underlain by substantial amounts of ice, and that this ice is now melting and causing the land above to slump. Many of these slumps occur near lakes and rivers, causing them to turn turbid. Our goal is to continue to measure the volume change of these features, something which to my knowledge has never been done before, certainly not at this accuracy or temporal coverage.
Repeat oblique aerial photography in western Alaska
Through another competitive RFP, Fairbanks Fodar was selected to take repeat photographs of the landscape in north-western Alaska made over 60 years ago. Through comparison with repeat photos made ~15 years ago, these photos have already been studied extensively to determine that shrub biomass in Arctic Alaska has increased by 30% or more. That effort, however, did not have the photogrammetric tools that we have today, such as photo positioning using Google Earth and the ability to easily orthorectify those photos for direct areal comparisons. We now have accurately reconstructed the old flight lines and have the tools to permit such direct comparisons, plus another 15 years of change to measure.
Mapping the Dalton Highway and Sag River
The University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska Department of Transportation have hired Fairbanks Fodar to map the Sag River and Dalton Highway from Deadhorse south about 100 miles. The overall aims of the project here are to understand the impacts of gravel extraction from the Sag to support haul road maintenance, as well as to detect and understand the maintenance issues with the road itself. The plan is to use this map as a baseline, using it to detect change when compared to future maps.
Mapping glaciers draining into Peters Lake
This past year we mapped the Peters Lake drainage in the north-east Brooks Range twice to support a project of Northern Arizona University, funded by the National Science Foundation, trying to understand the hydrological cycle within that basin to support lake sediment studies for paleoclimate research. Time-series of our maps provide the glacier volume change component of that cycle, as well as give a good sense of the snow melt contribution. As this watershed includes Mt Chamberlin, we used some of these data in our work determining the highest peak in the US Arctic. While we do not as yet have the next actual contract in hand, the plan is to map this watershed three times in each year of this three year project, trying to capture peak winter, peak summer, and late summer conditions. This watershed is only a few miles from McCall Glacier, which we map several times per year through internal funds.
Mapping the Kuparuk River aufeis field
Though also not officially funded yet, several cycles of proposal efforts seem to have finally resulted in a project for the University of Alabama, funded by the National Science Foundation. Our part of the project is to make time-series measurements of the Kuparuk aufeis field so that we can measure volume change and rates of growth and melt throughout a single annual cycle. As it stands now, this work will actually start in 2017, but if all goes well with planning we will make the first measurements in fall 2016 to get the minimum extents. Fall is the big wild card in the Arctic, as nearly all projects seek snow-free conditions at the end of summer, but snow can fall nearly any day of the year, and after mid-August there is good chance it wont melt until spring.
Mapping Cape Espenberg
On the list for next year is mapping Cape Espenburg in western Alaska for a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to support coastal change studies there. Alaska’s coasts are far overdue for mapping of this quality, especially in places like this where substantial change is occurring.
Coastal mapping near Bethel
While we were remarkably successful with our coastal mapping efforts this past summer, we still have 10-15% of that project’s area remaining. Most of this work is south and west of Bethel. We’ve already delivered a large chunk of those data, namely all 29 villages within this stretch of coast. Over the next few months we will complete processing of the remaining data, but will not be able to deliver it until the final field mapping is completed. Thus the data in hand will serve as a guide as to where the remaining holes are, as well as a template for some new repeat-mapping projects to detect coastal change.