Using terrestrial laser scanning for differential measurement of interannual rock glacier movement in the Argentine Dry Andes

Kane, Renato R.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Delaware
Argentina has recently implemented laws to protect glaciers and buried ice in the Andes to improve the sustainability of scarce, long-term water resources. Therefore, all glaciers and buried ice terrains must be located and avoided in any commercial alterations of the landscape. Buried ice in this remote and often dangerous terrain typically is located via the use of remote-sensing techniques. This thesis applies one such technique, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) in the form of Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS), to detect rock glacier movement that is indicative of flowing, buried ice not visible in near surface excavations. TLS surveys were completed at two locales, Los Azules and El Altar, in both AD 2013 and AD 2014 on landscapes where buried ice is suspected to have produced the current surface forms. Multiple TLS scans were co-registered with the use of benchmarks, both between scans and between years, which introduced quantifiable positional errors. Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) were derived from the point cloud data by standardizing the spacing of the points in the horizontal direction, creating 0.1 m by 0.1 m cells with elevation as the cell value. The DEMs for each year were subtracted from each other to yield a change in elevation. The surface roughness of the rock glaciers (vertical variability within each cell) was empirically determined and evaluated as a threshold for results. Both sites showed sub-decimeter interannual movements, and the direction of their movement is typical of forms with buried ice. The results of the study were validated using independent GPS data showing annual movement rates. Despite the downslope movement of these rock glaciers, the volume of ice contained within them remains unclear, and further study is required to assess the volume of water contained.