High-resolution mapping of spatial heterogeneity in ice wedge polygon geomorphology near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
It is well known that microtopography associated with ice wedge polygons drives pronounced, meter-scale spatial gradients in hydrologic and ecological processes on the tundra. However, high-resolution maps of polygonal geomorphology are rarely available, due to the complexity and subtlety of ice wedge polygon relief at landscape scales. Here we present a sub-meter resolution map of >106 discrete ice wedge polygons across a ~1200 km2 landscape, delineated within a lidar-derived digital elevation model. The delineation procedure relies on a convolutional neural network paired with a set of common image processing operations and permits explicit measurement of relative elevation at the center of each ice wedge polygon. The resulting map visualizes meter- to kilometer-scale spatial gradients in polygonal geomorphology across an extensive landscape with unprecedented detail. This high-resolution inventory of polygonal geomorphology provides rich spatial context for extrapolating observations of environmental processes across the landscape. The map also represents an extensive baseline dataset for quantifying contemporary land surface deformation (i.e., thermokarst) at the survey area, through future topographic surveys.
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