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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 6, issue 4 | Copyright
Earth Surf. Dynam., 6, 971-987, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-6-971-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 30 Oct 2018

Research article | 30 Oct 2018

Measuring decadal vertical land-level changes from SRTM-C (2000) and TanDEM-X (∼ 2015) in the south-central Andes

Benjamin Purinton and Bodo Bookhagen Benjamin Purinton and Bodo Bookhagen
  • Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, Universität Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. In the arctic and high mountains it is common to measure vertical changes of ice sheets and glaciers via digital elevation model (DEM) differencing. This requires the signal of change to outweigh the noise associated with the datasets. Excluding large landslides, on the ice-free earth the land-level change is smaller in vertical magnitude and thus requires more accurate DEMs for differencing and identification of change. Previously, this has required meter to submeter data at small spatial scales. Following careful corrections, we are able to measure land-level changes in gravel-bed channels and steep hillslopes in the south-central Andes using the SRTM-C (collected in 2000) and the TanDEM-X (collected from 2010 to 2015) near-global 12–30m DEMs. Long-standing errors in the SRTM-C are corrected using the TanDEM-X as a control surface and applying cosine-fit co-registration to remove ∼ 1∕10 pixel (∼ 3m) shifts, fast Fourier transform (FFT) and filtering to remove SRTM-C short- and long-wavelength stripes, and blocked shifting to remove remaining complex biases. The datasets are then differenced and outlier pixels are identified as a potential signal for the case of gravel-bed channels and hillslopes. We are able to identify signals of incision and aggradation (with magnitudes down to ∼ 3m in the best case) in two  > 100km river reaches, with increased geomorphic activity downstream of knickpoints. Anthropogenic gravel excavation and piling is prominently measured, with magnitudes exceeding ±5m (up to  > 10m for large piles). These values correspond to conservative average rates of 0.2 to > 0.5myr−1 for vertical changes in gravel-bed rivers. For hillslopes, since we require stricter cutoffs for noise, we are only able to identify one major landslide in the study area with a deposit volume of 16±0.15×106m3. Additional signals of change can be garnered from TanDEM-X auxiliary layers; however, these are more difficult to quantify. The methods presented can be extended to any region of the world with SRTM-C and TanDEM-X coverage where vertical land-level changes are of interest, with the caveat that remaining vertical uncertainties in primarily the SRTM-C limit detection in steep and complex topography.

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We show a new use for the SRTM-C digital elevation model from February 2000 and the newer TanDEM-X dataset from ~ 2015. We difference the datasets over hillslopes and gravel-bed channels to extract vertical land-level changes. These signals are associated with incision, aggradation, and landsliding. This requires careful correction of the SRTM-C biases using the TanDEM-X and propagation of significant uncertainties. The method can be applied to moderate relief areas with SRTM-C coverage.
We show a new use for the SRTM-C digital elevation model from February 2000 and the newer...
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