Using UAVs to investigate effects of crevasses upon glacier surface melting (Crevasse UAV)

This multidisciplinary project uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to study the effect of crevasses upon glacier surface melting. We will use UAVs to investigate turbulent and radiative heat fluxes on crevassed glaciers on Svalbard by taking vertical wind profiles, pyranometric measurements and by developing a structure from motion model.

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Project type

  • field work
  • modelling
  • arctic field grant (afg)


  • atmosphere
  • marine biology
  • cryosphere
  • technology and engineering

Project Keywords

  • cryosphere / glaciers/ice sheets / glaciers
  • atmosphere / atmospheric winds / wind profiles
  • climate indicators / cryospheric indicators / glacial measurements
  • atmosphere / atmospheric winds / convection

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The project involves the novel application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to overcome the hazards associated with studying the effect of crevasses upon glacier surface melting. This project is highly multidisciplinary, combing the fields of glaciology, metrology, and engineering. Firstly we will derive a function with which a UAV can be used to estimate wind speed and direction. Secondly, we will deploy the drone over several (up to three) Svalbard glaciers with different crevasse spacing in order to collect high-resolution aerial images of the surface, vertical wind profiles, and ice surface reflectance (albedo) data. The wind profiles will then be used to calculate the aerodynamic roughness length which is related to the convective heat fluxes and the images will be processed with a structure from motion (SFM) method to create 3D models of the different crevasse fields. The third and last part will be to produce empirical and physically-based models that describe the effect of crevasses on convective and radiative heat flow to the glacier surface and then demonstrate their impact on the rate of surface melting using local climate data. Most emphasis will be given to the effect of the crevasses upon turbulence, and so we will also implement the 3D models in a computational fluid dynamic (CFD) code that will allow us to numerically simulate the flow behavior over different crevasse fields. The influence of the crevassing on the radiative energy fluxes will involve statistical modeling of the albedo and crevasse pattern data. The following data were collected so far in the scope of this project. Drone-based mapping of the glacier fronts of Tunabreen, Nordenskiöldbreen, Fridtjovbreen, Wahlenbergbreen, Mohnbukta (Heuglinbreen). The result from this are high-resolution DEMs (ca 0.25m resolution) with Agisoft. Furthermore, drone-based wind measurements have been taken on these glaciers. The data consists of wind speed and wind direction measurements from above the crevassed glacier surface up to 100m. The format is in CSV.

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