Glacier surface velocities from point clouds using an open-source toolchain

An understanding of outlet glacier dynamics is crucial for understanding the mass-balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet and how changes to the Ice Sheet will affect sea level rise. Measurements of outlet glacier velocities are crucial for driving and validating outlet glacier dynamics models and understanding the processes that influence glacier advance and retreat. The Helheim Glacier in southeast Greenland is one of the fast-moving glaciers in Greenland, and is a crucial study site for outlet glacier dynamics. Since 2015, we have used an autonomous terrestrial LiDAR scanner (A-TLS) situated on the south side of the Helheim Glacier to capture the glacier's surface topography at six-hourly intervals. This presentation will discuss the open-source software toolchain used to convert these three-dimensional point clouds into three-dimensional glacier surface velocity measurements. Point cloud processing is traditionally dominated by proprietary and vendor-specific software, but by leveraging the Point cloud Data Abstraction Library (PDAL) and open-source academic research software, we perform georegistration, dynamic scanner alignment, post-processing, and velocity calculation completely in the open-source.

Along with presentation of some of the glacier velocity results, we will discuss:

  • Using PDAL with AWS EC2 and containerization to process huge volumes of point cloud data.
  • Using the Rust programming language for web API servers and research-level algorithm implementation.
  • Visualization of point cloud data in the browser, including dynamic visualization of point cloud timeseries (i.e. viewing point clouds like a movie in your browser).
  • Challenges associated with vendor-specific proprietary point cloud file formats and how to overcome them.
Schedule info
Session Time Slot(s): 
Monday, May 14, 2018 - 14:45 to 15:20

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