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  1. Cloud detection is an inextricable pre-processing step in remote sensing image analysis workflows. Most of the traditional rule-based and machine-learning-based algorithms utilize low-level features of the clouds and classify individual cloud pixels based on their spectral signatures. Cloud detection using such approaches can be challenging due to a multitude of factors including harsh lighting conditions, the presence of thin clouds, the context of surrounding pixels, and complex spatial patterns. In recent studies, deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have shown outstanding results in the computer vision domain. These methods are practiced for better capturing the texture, shape as well as context of images. In this study, we propose a deep learning CNN approach to detect cloud pixels from medium-resolution satellite imagery. The proposed CNN accounts for both the low-level features, such as color and texture information as well as high-level features extracted from successive convolutions of the input image. We prepared a cloud-pixel dataset of approximately 7273 randomly sampled 320 by 320 pixels image patches taken from a total of 121 Landsat-8 (30m) and Sentinel-2 (20m) image scenes. These satellite images come with cloud masks. From the available data channels, only blue, green, red, and NIR bands are fed into the model. The CNN model was trained on 5300 image patches and validated on 1973 independent image patches. As the final output from our model, we extract a binary mask of cloud pixels and non-cloud pixels. The results are benchmarked against established cloud detection methods using standard accuracy metrics.

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  2. Abstract. The microtopography associated with ice wedge polygons (IWPs) governs the Arctic ecosystem from local to regional scales due to the impacts on the flow and storage of water and therefore, vegetation and carbon. Increasing subsurface temperatures in Arctic permafrost landscapes cause differential ground settlements followed by a series of adverse microtopographic transitions at sub decadal scale. The entire Arctic has been imaged at 0.5 m or finer resolution by commercial satellite sensors. Dramatic microtopographic transformation of low-centered into high-centered IWPs can be identified using sub-meter resolution commercial satellite imagery. In this exploratory study, we have employed a Deep Learning (DL)-based object detection and semantic segmentation method named the Mask R-CNN to automatically map IWPs from commercial satellite imagery. Different tundra vegetation types have distinct spectral, spatial, textural characteristics, which in turn decide the semantics of overlying IWPs. Landscape complexity translates to the image complexity, affecting DL model performances. Scarcity of labelled training images, inadequate training samples for some types of tundra and class imbalance stand as other key challenges in this study. We implemented image augmentation methods to introduce variety in the training data and trained models separately for tundra types. Augmentation methods show promising results but the models with separate tundra types seem to suffer from the lack of annotated data.

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  3. Abstract. Permafrost thaw has been observed at several locations across the Arctic tundra in recent decades; however, the pan-Arctic extent and spatiotemporal dynamics of thaw remains poorly explained. Thaw-induced differential ground subsidence and dramatic microtopographic transitions, such as transformation of low-centered ice-wedge polygons (IWPs) into high-centered IWPs can be characterized using very high spatial resolution (VHSR) commercial satellite imagery. Arctic researchers demand for an accurate estimate of the distribution of IWPs and their status across the tundra domain. The entire Arctic has been imaged in 0.5 m resolution by commercial satellite sensors; however, mapping efforts are yet limited to small scales and confined to manual or semi-automated methods. Knowledge discovery through artificial intelligence (AI), big imagery, and high performance computing (HPC) resources is just starting to be realized in Arctic science. Large-scale deployment of VHSR imagery resources requires sophisticated computational approaches to automated image interpretation coupled with efficient use of HPC resources. We are in the process of developing an automated Mapping Application for Permafrost Land Environment (MAPLE) by combining big imagery, AI, and HPC resources. The MAPLE uses deep learning (DL) convolutional neural nets (CNNs) algorithms on HPCs to automatically map IWPs from VHSR commercial satellite imagery across large geographic domains. We trained and tasked a DLCNN semantic object instance segmentation algorithm to automatically classify IWPs from VHSR satellite imagery. Overall, our findings demonstrate the robust performances of IWP mapping algorithm in diverse tundra landscapes and lay a firm foundation for its operational-level application in repeated documentation of circumpolar permafrost disturbances.

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  4. Regional extent and spatiotemporal dynamics of Arctic permafrost disturbances remain poorly quantified. High spatial resolution commercial satellite imagery enables transformational opportunities to observe, map, and document the micro-topographic transitions occurring in Arctic polygonal tundra at multiple spatial and temporal frequencies. The entire Arctic has been imaged at 0.5 m or finer resolution by commercial satellite sensors. The imagery is still largely underutilized, and value-added Arctic science products are rare. Knowledge discovery through artificial intelligence (AI), big imagery, high performance computing (HPC) resources is just starting to be realized in Arctic science. Large-scale deployment of petabyte-scale imagery resources requires sophisticated computational approaches to automated image interpretation coupled with efficient use of HPC resources. In addition to semantic complexities, multitude factors that are inherent to sub-meter resolution satellite imagery, such as file size, dimensions, spectral channels, overlaps, spatial references, and imaging conditions challenge the direct translation of AI-based approaches from computer vision applications. Memory limitations of Graphical Processing Units necessitates the partitioning of an input satellite imagery into manageable sub-arrays, followed by parallel predictions and post-processing to reconstruct the results corresponding to input image dimensions and spatial reference. We have developed a novel high performance image analysis framework –Mapping application for Arctic Permafrost Land Environment (MAPLE) that enables the integration of operational-scale GeoAI capabilities into Arctic science applications. We have designed the MAPLE workflow to become interoperable across HPC architectures while utilizing the optimal use of computing resources.

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  5. Abstract

    Thermokarst lakes accelerate deep permafrost thaw and the mobilization of previously frozen soil organic carbon. This leads to microbial decomposition and large releases of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) that enhance climate warming. However, the time scale of permafrost-carbon emissions following thaw is not well known but is important for understanding how abrupt permafrost thaw impacts climate feedback. We combined field measurements and radiocarbon dating of CH4ebullition with (a) an assessment of lake area changes delineated from high-resolution (1–2.5 m) optical imagery and (b) geophysical measurements of thaw bulbs (taliks) to determine the spatiotemporal dynamics of hotspot-seep CH4ebullition in interior Alaska thermokarst lakes. Hotspot seeps are characterized as point-sources of high ebullition that release14C-depleted CH4from deep (up to tens of meters) within lake thaw bulbs year-round. Thermokarst lakes, initiated by a variety of factors, doubled in number and increased 37.5% in area from 1949 to 2009 as climate warmed. Approximately 80% of contemporary CH4hotspot seeps were associated with this recent thermokarst activity, occurring where 60 years of abrupt thaw took place as a result of new and expanded lake areas. Hotspot occurrence diminished with distance from thermokarst lake margins. We attribute older14C ages of CH4released from hotspot seeps in older, expanding thermokarst lakes (14CCH420 079 ± 1227 years BP, mean ± standard error (s.e.m.) years) to deeper taliks (thaw bulbs) compared to younger14CCH4in new lakes (14CCH48526 ± 741 years BP) with shallower taliks. We find that smaller, non-hotspot ebullition seeps have younger14C ages (expanding lakes 7473 ± 1762 years; new lakes 4742 ± 803 years) and that their emissions span a larger historic range. These observations provide a first-order constraint on the magnitude and decadal-scale duration of CH4-hotspot seep emissions following formation of thermokarst lakes as climate warms.

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