Radar Imagery, Digital Elevation Models, and Related GIS Layers for Collaborative Research of Environmental Change at Barrow, Alaska


<--  Close-up of the OrthoRectified Radar Imagery over a Digital Surface Model for the villages of Barrow and Browerville. Click for larger view.

A broadly collaborative effort has resulted in the creation and distribution of high-quality geospatial datasets to benefit research concentrated near Barrow, northernmost Alaska. The imagery and data can be used in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and include:

  • OrthoRectified Radar Imagery (ORRI, 1.25 m pixels)
  • Two types of Digital Elevation Models (DEM's, 5 m grid cells with <1 m vertical accuracy)
  • Value-added GIS layers (derived layers such as contours, aspect, shaded relief, and slope angle; digital versions of the USGS topo. maps; and index layers)

The airborne Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (IFSAR) imagery and derived DEM's were successfully acquired in late July, 2002, by Intermap Technologies. The spatial data went through rigorous quality reviews and revisions before final acceptance. Additional value-added processing was conducted to create a suite of user-friendly products, including FGDC-compliant metadata.

As part of this project, we will later distribute high-resolution QuickBird satellite imagery (0.7 m panchromatic; 2.8 m multispectral), as well as georectified aerial photographs. This imagery is currently being processed for value-added products, metadata, other documentation, and data delivery.

The spatial datasets are more precise, accurate, and useful than previously available data layers. The state-of-the-art, GIS and remote-sensing products will overcome obstacles of differing map projections, datums, resolution, extent, timeframe, accuracy, data format, and accessibility. They will reduce duplicated efforts, and foster interdiscipinary investigations.

The data will provide a long-lasting, common base for orthorectifying and georegistering other GIS data and imagery, and will establish a temporal baseline for decades of change-detection studies. Beyond education and outreach, the data should promote quantitative analysis, modeling, and collaboration in the fields of: ecosystem classification, health, & dynamics; terrestrial-atmospheric fluxes of greenhouse gases; natural & anthropogenic landscape dynamics; archeology; stream and thaw-lake hydrology & change; coastal flooding; coastal erosion; permafrost melting; and other environmental responses to unprecedented Arctic warming. These societally relevant topics can be addressed in new ways and with greater success using shared digital topography and imagery.


The IFSAR datasets and imagery are now available at:

The data are being distributed by the Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Data Coordination Center (ADCC) at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Two suites of data are available: 1) a high-resolution set available on DVD by request (currently restricted through license agreements to NSF-funded investigators only), and 2) a reduced-resolution set available to the public by ftp download and on CD. As of April, 2005, we are negotiating with Intermap Technologies for public release of the high-resolution imagery and data.



Landsat image showing the extent of the data and imagery. -->
Click for larger view.

The ORRI and DEM's encompass the entire "Barrow Peninsula" (2350 km2). The QuickBird imagery will cover the "Barrow Triangle" (967 km2). Time-series, georectified air-photo mosaics will span the Chukchi coast near Barrow. The ORRI mosaic and DEM's are also available cropped to the Barrow Triangle, for easier use by those investigators interested only in this area.


Powerpoint File

Download a powerpoint presentation:

"Barrow_HighRes_IFSAR.ppt" (8.0 MB)

for a summary of: goals, initial data format, processing, available datasets, and research significance with regard to the IFSAR products.


William Manley1, Leanne Lestak1, Craig Tweedie2,and James Maslanik1
1 University of Colorado2 Michigan State University (now at UTEP)

Richard Beck, Kenneth Hinkel, and Wendy Eisner
University of Cincinnati
Glenn Sheehan
Barrow Arctic Science Consortium
Jerry Brown
International Permafrost Association
Anne Jensen
Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation
Tim Buckley
Barrow High School
Frederick Nelson and Anna Klene
University of Delaware
Patrick Webber
Michigan State University
Rudolf Dichtl and Chris McNeave
ARCSS Data Coordination Center


  • Manley, W.F., Lestak, L.R., Tweedie, C.E., and Maslanik, J.A., 2005, High-Resolution Radar Imagery, Digital Elevation Models, and Related GIS Layers for Barrow, Alaska: Boulder, CO, National Snow and Ice Data Center. DVD.
  • Manley, W.F., Lestak, L.R., Tweedie, C.E., and Maslanik, J.A. 2005, Reduced-Resolution Radar Imagery, Digital Elevation Models, and Related GIS Layers for Barrow, Alaska: Boulder, CO, National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media and CD-ROM.


The high-resolution imagery and terrain models were made possible through funding from the National Science Foundation's program for Arctic Research Support and Logistics (NSF Award OPP-0224071).