Elevation change and improved velocity retrieval using orthorectified optical satellite data from different orbits

B. Altena, Andreas Kääb

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Optical satellite products are available at different processing levels. Of these products, terrain corrected (i.e., orthorectified) products are the ones mostly used for glacier displacement estimation. For terrain correction, a digital elevation model (DEM) is used that typically stems from various data sources with variable qualities, from dispersed time instances, or with different spatial resolutions. Consequently, terrain representation used for orthorectifying satellite images is often in disagreement with reality at image acquisition. Normally, the lateral orthoprojection offsets resulting from vertical DEM errors are taken into account in the geolocation error budget of the corrected images, or may even be neglected. The largest offsets of this type are often found over glaciers, as these may show strong elevation changes over time and thus large elevation errors in the reference DEM with respect to image acquisition. The detection and correction of such orthorectification offsets is further complicated by ice flow which adds a second offset component to the displacement vectors between orthorectified data. Vice versa, measurement of glacier flow is complicated by the inherent superposition of ice movement vectors and orthorectification offset vectors. In this study, we try to estimate these orthorectification offsets in the presence of terrain movement and translate them to elevation biases in the reference surface. We demonstrate our method using three different sites which include very dynamic glaciers. For the Oriental Glacier, an outlet of the Southern Patagonian icefield, Landsat 7 and 8 data from different orbits enabled the identification of trends related to elevation change. For the Aletsch Glacier, Swiss Alps, we assess the terrain offsets of both Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2A: a superior DEM appears to be used for Landsat in comparison to Sentinel-2, however a systematic bias is observed in the snow covered areas. Lastly, we demonstrate our methodology in a pipeline structure; displacement estimates for the Helheim-glacier, in Greenland, are mapped and corrected for orthorectification offsets between data from different orbits, which enables a twice as dense a temporal resolution of velocity data, as compared to the standard method of measuring velocities from repeat-orbit data only. In addition, we introduce and implement a novel matching method which uses image triplets. By formulating the three image displacements as a convolution, a geometric constraint can be exploited. Such a constraint enhances the reliability of the displacement estimations. Furthermore the implementation is simple and computationally swift.
Original languageEnglish
Article number300
Number of pages22
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2017


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