Remote Sensing

Remote Sensing at the Permafrost Lab


Research Group Remote Sensing of Permafrost Landscapes

Remote sensing is key to detection, monitoring, and understanding spatial processes of permafrost change in remote high latitude regions. We recently embedded a research group in the Permafrost Laboratory focusing strongly on the remote sensing of environmental dynamics in permafrost landscapes. We are engaged in the Panarctic, but our current focus regions are Alaska and North Siberia. We are working with optical imagery on various scales from aerial imagery to MODIS data, LIDAR, IfSAR, GRACE, and via external collaborations started working with SAR data (TSX, ERS-2, PALSAR). Field work and ground truth in remote Arctic regions and under sometimes extreme environmental conditions (winter cold, snow storms, summer heat, mosquitoes...) are a crucial component of our remote sensing studies. Our work is closely coupled with the modeling efforts by Profs. V. Romanovsky and S. Marchenko, and Postdoctoral Fellow R. Daanen. Several additional projects by lab members include remote sensing analyses on the sidelines. Research Technician B. Cable supports many technical aspects of our group. Together we are working on a still virtual project 'Permafrost Watch' in which we try to incorporate remote sensing, ground data and modeling on an operational basis for distinct real-world applications.

Our group is continuously looking for undergraduate and graduate students with interest in permafrost, cryospheric change, Arctic climate impacts, modeling, and remote sensing / GIS applications. Exciting research themes are just waiting to be tackled at this new and rapidly growing frontier of Earth's cryosphere sciences.


Current projects


Permafrost Watch is a still virtual project that aims at combining remote sensing and field data streams with modeling of permafrost to operationally measure, monitor and predict physical permafrost parameters for distinct target regions relevant to decision makers in government and industry.


Equipment and Facilities


  • LEICA VIVA RTK Differential GPS
  • LEICA Total Station TS02
  • Panasonic Toughbook
  • Modified SIPRE Permafrost Drill Kit
  • Various permafrost sampling gear
  • Freezer storage and cold room laboratory
  • Hobo Data Logger Launcher
  • GARMIN hand held GPS
  • TRIMBLE GeoExplorer XT GPS
  • Time lapse cameras for long-term process monitoring
  • Soil gas sampling probe
  • Tree ring corer
  • Several dedicated remote sensing and GIS workstations
  • Shared and RAID-secured server space with 5.45 TB and 15 TB
  • PLUSTEK OpticFilm 7500i slide scanner
  • HP Scanjet 8300 Scanner
  • Color and B/W Laser Printer
  • Access to large-format plotters via the GI Design Center


  • ArcGIS 9.3 and 10 (including all extensions)
  • ArcGIS Feature Analyst
  • ENVI 4.8 single node + network floating licenses
  • ENVI DEM Extraction Module
  • ENVI FLAASH Atmospheric Correction Module
  • ECognition Developer 4.68
  • ERDAS Imagine
  • Leica Geo Office
  • ATCOR 2/3 Atmospheric Correction Software
  • BEAM 4.5.1
  • ASD Viewspec Pro
  • MODIS Reprojection Tool
  • MATLAB 7.6.0
  • Strater
  • Grapher 7
  • Corel Draw X4
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Endnote X2
  • Standard Office Packages (MS Office, Open Office)

Other relevant resources available at UAF

GINA is a distributed data system for geospatial information, GINA maintains an enterprise-level geographic information system (GIS) with online archiving, internet mapping, and metadata services. GINA offers training and assistance in satellite image processing, GIS, and visualization. GINA provides custom processing, server-side analysis, and visualization tools. GINA unites and extends UA’s GIS and remote sensing activities through the use of internationally adopted standards and a shared web portal.

The Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF) of the Geophysical Institute (GI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, downlinks, archives, and distributes satellite data. ASF is comprised of a Satellite Tracking Ground Station(STGS) as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ground Network system, the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Data Center in support of NASA’s Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project, and the Americas ALOS Data Node (AADN) established by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition, ASF manages the GI’s GeoData Center and Map Office.

ARSC computational systems and resources include a wide range of high performance computing, storage and visualization technology.


Recent Publications

Thermokarst lakes and drained thermokarst lake basins

Coastal erosion

Land cover characterization, carbon pools, and permafrost detection

Periglacial feature mapping

Ground based remote sensing

Gravimetric mass balance and snow water equivalent

Remote sensing of extraterrestrial periglacial enviornments

Glacier and ice

  • Muskett, R.R., C.S. Lingle, J.M. Sauber, A. S. Post, W. V. Tangborn, B. T. Rabus, and K.A. Echelmeyer (2009): Airborne-Spaceborne DEM- and Laser Altimetry-Derived Surface Elevation and Volume Changes of the Bering Glacier System, 1972 through 2006. J. Glaciol., 55, 190, 316-326.
  • Muskett, R.R., C.S. Lingle, J.M. Sauber, B.T. Rabus, and W.V. Tangborn (2008): Acceleration of Surface Lowering on the Tidewater Glaciers of Icy Bay, Alaska, U.S.A., from InSAR DEMs and ICESat Altimetry. Earth and Planetary Sci. Lett., 265, 345-359, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2007.10.012.
  • Atwood, D.K., R.M. Guritz, R.R. Muskett, C.S. Lingle, J.M. Sauber, and J.T. Freymueller (2007): DEM Control in Arctic Alaska with ICESat Laser Altimetry. IEEE Trans. Geosci. and Remote Sensing, 45 (11), 3710-3720.
  • Sauber, J., B. Molnia, C. Carabajal, S. Luthcke, and R. Muskett (2005): Ice elevation and surface change on the Malaspina Glacier, Alaska. Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L23S01.