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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 4, issue 2 | Copyright

Special issue: Frontiers in geomorphometry

Earth Surf. Dynam., 4, 425-443, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-4-425-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 20 May 2016

Research article | 20 May 2016

Suitability of ground-based SfM–MVS for monitoring glacial and periglacial processes

Livia Piermattei1,2, Luca Carturan2, Fabrizio de Blasi2, Paolo Tarolli2, Giancarlo Dalla Fontana2, Antonio Vettore3, and Norbert Pfeifer1 Livia Piermattei et al.
  • 1Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, TU Wien, Vienna, Austria
  • 2Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  • 3Interdepartment Research Center of Geomatics, University of Padova, Padova, Italy

Abstract. Photo-based surface reconstruction is rapidly emerging as an alternative survey technique to lidar (light detection and ranging) in many fields of geoscience fostered by the recent development of computer vision algorithms such as structure from motion (SfM) and dense image matching such as multi-view stereo (MVS). The objectives of this work are to test the suitability of the ground-based SfM–MVS approach for calculating the geodetic mass balance of a 2.1km2 glacier and for detecting the surface displacement of a neighbouring active rock glacier located in the eastern Italian Alps. The photos were acquired in 2013 and 2014 using a digital consumer-grade camera during single-day field surveys. Airborne laser scanning (ALS, otherwise known as airborne lidar) data were used as benchmarks to estimate the accuracy of the photogrammetric digital elevation models (DEMs) and the reliability of the method. The SfM–MVS approach enabled the reconstruction of high-quality DEMs, which provided estimates of glacial and periglacial processes similar to those achievable using ALS. In stable bedrock areas outside the glacier, the mean and the standard deviation of the elevation difference between the SfM–MVS DEM and the ALS DEM was −0.42±1.72 and 0.03±0.74m in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The overall pattern of elevation loss and gain on the glacier were similar with both methods, ranging between −5.53 and + 3.48m. In the rock glacier area, the elevation difference between the SfM–MVS DEM and the ALS DEM was 0.02±0.17m. The SfM–MVS was able to reproduce the patterns and the magnitudes of displacement of the rock glacier observed by the ALS, ranging between 0.00 and 0.48m per year.

The use of natural targets as ground control points, the occurrence of shadowed and low-contrast areas, and in particular the suboptimal camera network geometry imposed by the morphology of the study area were the main factors affecting the accuracy of photogrammetric DEMs negatively. Technical improvements such as using an aerial platform and/or placing artificial targets could significantly improve the results but run the risk of being more demanding in terms of costs and logistics.

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We investigated the applicability of the SfM–MVS approach for calculating the geodetic mass balance of a glacier and for the detection of the surface displacement rate of an active rock glacier located in the eastern Italian Alps. The results demonstrate that it is possible to reliably quantify the investigated glacial and periglacial processes by means of a quick ground-based photogrammetric survey that was conducted using a consumer grade SRL camera and natural targets as ground control points.
We investigated the applicability of the SfM–MVS approach for calculating the geodetic mass...
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