BIG IMAGERY AND HIGH PERFORMANCE COMPUTING AS RESOURCES TO UNDERSTAND CHANGING ARCTIC POLYGONAL TUNDRA
Keywords: Arctic, Permafrost, Ice-wedge polygons, Deep learning, Satellite imagery, Mapping
Abstract. Permafrost thaw has been observed at several locations across the Arctic tundra in recent decades; however, the pan-Arctic extent and spatiotemporal dynamics of thaw remains poorly explained. Thaw-induced differential ground subsidence and dramatic microtopographic transitions, such as transformation of low-centered ice-wedge polygons (IWPs) into high-centered IWPs can be characterized using very high spatial resolution (VHSR) commercial satellite imagery. Arctic researchers demand for an accurate estimate of the distribution of IWPs and their status across the tundra domain. The entire Arctic has been imaged in 0.5 m resolution by commercial satellite sensors; however, mapping efforts are yet limited to small scales and confined to manual or semi-automated methods. Knowledge discovery through artificial intelligence (AI), big imagery, and high performance computing (HPC) resources is just starting to be realized in Arctic science. Large-scale deployment of VHSR imagery resources requires sophisticated computational approaches to automated image interpretation coupled with efficient use of HPC resources. We are in the process of developing an automated Mapping Application for Permafrost Land Environment (MAPLE) by combining big imagery, AI, and HPC resources. The MAPLE uses deep learning (DL) convolutional neural nets (CNNs) algorithms on HPCs to automatically map IWPs from VHSR commercial satellite imagery across large geographic domains. We trained and tasked a DLCNN semantic object instance segmentation algorithm to automatically classify IWPs from VHSR satellite imagery. Overall, our findings demonstrate the robust performances of IWP mapping algorithm in diverse tundra landscapes and lay a firm foundation for its operational-level application in repeated documentation of circumpolar permafrost disturbances.