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DEM generation from airborne LIDAR data, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

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The McMurdo Dry Valleys, covering about 4,800 km², at 76°30'78°30'S, 160-164°E, constitute the largest continuous ice-free ground in Antarctica. It is a hyper-arid, cold polar desert, containing a variety of landscapes, including perennially ice-covered lakes, ephemeral streams, glaciers and extensive areas of soils and exposed bedrock. Geomorphologic mapping and landscape interpretation provide key information toward understanding the climate evolution of the Dry Valley region, which has important implications for the stability of the east Antarctic ice sheet.

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Looking east across Eastern Taylor Valley, in the background you can see Mount Erebus Beacon Valley

During the 2001-02 austral summer, NASA/GSFC, NSF Polar Program and USGS joined forces to collect high-resolution ALS data over several sites in the McMurdo Dry Valleys area of southern Victoria Land, Antarctica, using NASA Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) laser altimetry system. The prime motivation was to evaluate the potential of ALS topographic mapping in Antarctica and to establish calibration/validation sites for NASA ICESat (Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite) altimeter mission. Data were collected and processed by NASA ATM group. The second data processing phase, called as laser point post-processing, was carried out at the Ohio State University.

Researchers from the Byrd Polar Research Center and the Digital Photogrammetry Laboratory developed unique methods to analyze the raw laser points, to detect and eliminate outliers, and to interpolate a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) from the irregularly distributed laser points. Different visualization methods are used to represent the surface in a suitable fashion for researchers to analyze the different landscapes. For example, presenting the topography as shaded relief perspective view reveals how well the topographic details have been captured by the airborne laser scanning mission and encoded in the DEM.

Download the DEM of Taylor valley data 1 here
Download the DEM of Taylor valley data 2 here

For more information, please visit DEM generation web site.