Sea ice melt pond bathymetry reconstructed from aerial photographs using photogrammetry: A new method applied to MOSAiC data

Fuchs, Niels; von Albedyll, Luisa; Birnbaum, Gerit; Linhardt, Felix; Oppelt, Natascha; Haas, Christian

Melt ponds are a core component of the summer sea ice system in the Arctic, increasing the uptake of solar energy and impacting the ice-associated ecosystem. They were thus one of the key topics during the one-year drift campaign MOSAiC in the Transpolar Drift 2019/2020. Pond depth is a dominating factor in the description of the surface meltwater volume, necessary to estimate budgets, and used in model parametrization to simulate pond coverage evolution. However, observational data on pond depth is spatially and temporally strongly limited to a few in situ measurements. Pond bathymetry, which is pond depth spatially fully resolved, remains entirely unexplored. Here, we present a newly developed method to derive pond bathymetry from aerial images. We determine it from a photogrammetric multi-view reconstruction of the summer ice surface topography. Based on images recorded on dedicated grid flights and facilitated assumptions, we were able to obtain pond depth with a mean deviation of 3.5 cm compared to manual in situ observations. The method is independent of pond color and sky conditions, which is an advantage over recently developed radiometric airborne retrieval methods. It can furthermore be implemented in any typical photogrammetry workflow. We present the retrieval algorithm, including requirements for the data recording and survey planning, and a correction method for refraction at the air—pond interface. In addition, we show how the retrieved surface topography model synergizes with the initial image data to retrieve the water level of individual ponds from the visually determined pond margins.

We use the method to give a profound overview of the pond coverage on the MOSAiC floe, on which we found unexpected steady pond coverage and volume. We were able to derive individual pond properties of more than 1600 ponds on the floe, including their size, bathymetry, volume, surface elevation above sea level, and temporal evolution. We present a scaling factor for single in situ depth measurements, discuss the representativeness of in situ pond measurements, and show indications for non-rigid pond bottoms. The study points out the great potential to derive geometric properties of the summer sea-ice surface emerging from the increasingly available visual image data recorded from UAVs or aircraft, allowing for an integrated understanding and improved formulation of the thermodynamic and hydrological pond system in models.

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Fuchs, Niels / von Albedyll, Luisa / Birnbaum, Gerit / et al: Sea ice melt pond bathymetry reconstructed from aerial photographs using photogrammetry: A new method applied to MOSAiC data. 2023. Copernicus Publications.

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