Rosie Bisset, a researcher at Edinburgh University, is mapping the surface of some of the highest glaciers in South America using data from a thermal drone. Researchers have been monitoring the Andes glaciers with drones for several years, but Bisset is the first to conduct a thermal survey on her expedition.
From an article by Teledyne Flir.
Bisset is part of a research project called CASCADA, which brings together researchers from the UK and Peru to solve critical problems caused by retreating mountain glaciers. The glaciers of the Peruvian Andes have shrunk by about 30% in the last few decades, and pose a serious threat to the water supply of the people living in the Ancash region of Peru. Bisset is using thermal imaging data to understand how the surface cover of the glaciers is affecting the melt rate.
“One of the things that we’re particularly interested in looking at with the thermal camera,” Bisset explains, “is this material covering the surface of the glacier, which is called debris cover.” Debris cover influences the melt rate of the glacier in two ways, depending on the thickness: if there’s a thin layer of material covering the surface of the glacier, it enhances the melt rate by darkening the glacier surface and causing more sunlight to be absorbed. But a thicker layer of debris has the opposite effect, acting as insulation and preventing heat from reaching the surface of the ice.
“By measuring the surface temperature, you can model the thickness of the debris and how that’s likely to be influencing the melt rate.” Bisset used a drone fitted with a FLIR Vue Pro R 640 to measure the surface temperature of the glacier, and is currently building a mosaic of stitched-together thermal images to better understand its surface characteristics.
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