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EAGER PROPOSAL: IceTrendr: An Automated Visualization and Analysis Tool for Mapping Changes in Glacier Extent from Landsat


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Computer science & e-learning

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Glaciers represent key elements of the cryosphere and of the polar regions. Remote sensing data can provide information over large areas and in those regions where it is difficult (if not impossible) to access. In particular, remote sensing tools are potentially capable of map glacier changes worldwide in a consistent way and through publicly available data sets. The proposed project aims at developing a web-based system in which remote sensing data collected for more than 30 years will be used to estimate properties and characteristics of glaciers through the bridging of computer science and glaciology expertise. Users of the system will be either experts in glaciology or remote sensing, and students or educated citizens interested in exploring glacier changes through remote sensing tools. The outcomes of the project will benefit society in view of the impact of glaciers on water reources management, their impact on the hydrological cycle and the potential contribution to sea level rise and will provide an open tool for glaciologists, climate scientists, and educators. The project will produce and test a prototype web-based system called 'IceTrendr' that would mine and exploit the Landsat Thematic Mapper satellite image archive (1984-present) to map and analyze changing Arctic glaciers. The proposed IceTrendr is an automated Big Data mining toolset for Landsat imagery that captures, labels, and maps glacier change for use in climate science, hydrology, and Earth science education. A pilot study will be conducted to address the various challenges, looking at five glaciers in North America: Wolverine, Gulkana, and Bering Glaciers in Alaska; South Cascade Glacier, Washington; and White Glacier on Axel Heiberg Island, Canada. Products will include maps of glacier extent and terminus position from 1984-2012, glacier change characteristics, time series animations, and a web interface for interpreting specific types of glacier change (slow melt, abrupt melt, surging, etc.). The PIs will work in partnership with middle and high school teachers who will explore and test the IceTrendr system and who will also use IceTrendr to develop computer-based Earth science lessons for their classrooms and beyond.