Pingos are circular to elongate ice-cored mounds that form by injection and freezing of pressurized water in near-surface permafrost. Here we use a digital surface model (DSM) derived from an airborne Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (IfSAR) system to assess the distribution and morphometry of pingos within a 40,000km2 area on the western Arctic Coastal Plain of northern Alaska. We have identified 1247 pingo forms in the study region, ranging in height from 2 to 21m, with a mean height of 4.6m. Pingos in this region are of hydrostatic origin, with 98% located within 995 drained lake basins, most of which are underlain by thick eolian sand deposits. The highest pingo density (0.18km-2) occurs where streams have reworked these deposits. Morphometric analyses indicate that most pingos are small to medium in size (<200m diameter), gently to moderately sloping (<30??), circular to slightly elongate (mean circularity index of 0.88), and of relatively low height (2 to 5m). However, 57 pingos stand higher than 10m, 26 have a maximum slope greater than 30??, and 42 are larger than 200m in diameter. Comparison with a legacy pingo dataset based on 1950s stereo-pair photography indicates that 66 may have partially or completely collapsed over the last half-century. However, we mapped over 400 pingos not identified in the legacy dataset, and identified only three higher than 2m to have formed between ca. 1955 and ca. 2005, indicating that caution should be taken when comparing contemporary and legacy datasets derived by different techniques. This comprehensive database of pingo location and morphometry based on an IfSAR DSM may prove useful for land and resource managers as well as aid in the identification of pingo-like features on Mars. ?? 2011.
Additional publication details
Assessment of pingo distribution and morphometry using an IfSAR derived digital surface model, western Arctic Coastal Plain, Northern Alaska