23 Feb 2021

23 Feb 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESurf.

Validation and application of sequential unmanned aerial vehicle surveys to monitor the kinematics of a rapid rock glacier

Sebastián Vivero1, Reynald Delaloye2, and Christophe Lambiel1 Sebastián Vivero et al.
  • 1Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, 1015, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Geosciences/Geography, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, 1700, Switzerland

Abstract. Accurately assessing landform evolution and quantifying rapid environmental changes are gaining importance in the context of monitoring techniques in alpine environments. In the European Alps, glaciers and rock glaciers are among the most characteristic cryospheric components bearing the most prolonged monitoring periods. This study introduces a rigorous procedure to quantify rock glacier kinematics and their associated uncertainty derived from sequential unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys. High-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) and orthomosaics are derived from UAV image series combined with structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry techniques. Multitemporal datasets are employed for measuring spatially continuous rock glacier kinematics using image matching algorithms. This procedure is tested on seven consecutive (from 2016 to 2019) UAV surveys of Tsarmine rock glacier, Valais Alps, Switzerland. The evaluation of superficial displacements was performed with simultaneous in-situ differential global navigation satellite system (GNSS) measurements. During the study period, the rock glacier doubled its overall frontal velocity, from around 5 m yr−1 between October 2016 and June 2017 to more than 10 m yr−1 between June and September 2019. Using the adequate UAV survey acquisition, processing, and validation steps, we almost achieved the same accuracy as the GNSS-derived velocities. Nevertheless, the proposed monitoring method provides accurate surface velocity fields values, which allow an enhanced description of the current rock glacier dynamics and its surface expression.

Sebastián Vivero et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on esurf-2021-8', Gernot Seier, 02 Apr 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Sebastián Vivero, 12 May 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on esurf-2021-8', Anonymous Referee #2, 06 Apr 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Sebastián Vivero, 12 May 2021

Sebastián Vivero et al.

Sebastián Vivero et al.


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Short summary
We use repeated drone flights to measure the velocities of a rock glacier located in the western Swiss Alps. The results are validated by comparing with simultaneous GPS measurements. Between 2016 and 2019, the rock glacier doubled its overall frontal velocity, from 5 m to more than 10 m per year. These high velocities and the development of a scarp feature indicate a rock glacier destabilisation phase. Finally, this work highlights the use of drones for rock glacier monitoring.