Moritz Langer


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Multitemporal terrestrial laser scanning point clouds for thaw subsidence observation at Arctic permafrost monitoring sites
Katharina Anders, Sabrina Marx, Julia Boike, Benjamin Herfort, Evan J. Wilcox, Moritz Langer, Philip Marsh
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Volume 45, Issue 7

This paper investigates different methods for quantifying thaw subsidence using terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) point clouds. Thaw subsidence is a slow (millimetre to centimetre per year) vertical displacement of the ground surface common in ice‐rich permafrost‐underlain landscapes. It is difficult to quantify thaw subsidence in tundra areas as they often lack stable reference frames. Also, there is no solid ground surface to serve as a basis for elevation measurements, due to a continuous moss–lichen cover. We investigate how an expert‐driven method improves the accuracy of benchmark measurements at discrete locations within two sites using multitemporal TLS data of a 1‐year period. Our method aggregates multiple experts’ determination of the ground surface in 3D point clouds, collected in a web‐based tool. We then compare this to the performance of a fully automated ground surface determination method. Lastly, we quantify ground surface displacement by directly computing multitemporal point cloud distances, thereby extending thaw subsidence observation to an area‐based assessment. Using the expert‐driven quantification as reference, we validate the other methods, including in‐situ benchmark measurements from a conventional field survey. This study demonstrates that quantifying the ground surface using 3D point clouds is more accurate than the field survey method. The expert‐driven method achieves an accuracy of 0.1 ± 0.1 cm. Compared to this, in‐situ benchmark measurements by single surveyors yield an accuracy of 0.4 ± 1.5 cm. This difference between the two methods is important, considering an observed displacement of 1.4 cm at the sites. Thaw subsidence quantification with the fully automatic benchmark‐based method achieves an accuracy of 0.2 ± 0.5 cm and direct point cloud distance computation an accuracy of 0.2 ± 0.9 cm. The range in accuracy is largely influenced by properties of vegetation structure at locations within the sites. The developed methods enable a link of automated quantification and expert judgement for transparent long‐term monitoring of permafrost subsidence.


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Improving Permafrost Modeling by Assimilating Remotely Sensed Soil Moisture
Simon Zwieback, Sebastian Westermann, Moritz Langer, Julia Boike, Philip Marsh, Aaron Berg
Water Resources Research, Volume 55, Issue 3

Knowledge of soil moisture conditions is important for modeling soil temperatures, as soil moisture influences the thermal dynamics in multiple ways. However, in permafrost regions, soil moisture is highly heterogeneous and difficult to model. Satellite soil moisture data may fill this gap, but the degree to which they can improve permafrost modeling is unknown. To explore their added value for modeling soil temperatures, we assimilate fine‐scale satellite surface soil moisture into the CryoGrid‐3 permafrost model, which accounts for the soil moisture's influence on the soil thermal properties and the surface energy balance. At our study site in the Canadian Arctic, the assimilation improves the estimates of deeper (>10 cm) soil temperatures during summer but not consistently those of the near‐surface temperatures. The improvements in the deeper temperatures are strongly contingent on soil type: They are largest for porous organic soils (30%), smaller for thin organic soil covers (20%), and they essentially vanish for mineral soils (only synthetic data available). That the improvements are greatest over organic soils reflects the strong coupling between soil moisture and deeper temperatures. The coupling arises largely from the diminishing soil thermal conductivity with increasing desiccation thanks to which the deeper soil is kept cool. It is this association of dry organic soils being cool at depth that lets the assimilation revise the simulated soil temperatures toward the actually measured ones. In the future, the increasing availability of satellite soil moisture data holds promise for the operational monitoring of soil temperatures, hydrology, and biogeochemistry.