Morphometric and spatial analysis of thaw lakes and drained thaw lake basins in the western Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska

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Abstract

Landsat-7 ETM + scenes were acquired for the western Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska extending from 152° to 162° W longitude. A segmentation algorithm was used to classify lakes and drained thaw lake basins (DTLBs) exceeding 1 ha in size. A total of 13,214 lakes and 6539 DTLBs were identified. Several indices were obtained from the image processing software and used for a comparative analysis of lakes and basins including object size, goodness of elliptic fit, shape complexity, shape asymmetry, and orientation of the major axis. Nonparametric statistical analyses indicate that lakes and basins share similar orientation only. Three subregions of the western Arctic Coastal Plain were identified based on landscape age, as demarcated by ancient shorelines. The surfaces become progressively older inland and include the Younger Outer Coastal Plain, the Outer Coastal Plain, and the oldest Inner Coastal Plain. Lakes and basins in all subregions have statistically similar orientation, indicating that summer wind direction has not changed appreciably over the past several thousand years. Basin orientation is less clustered than lake orientation. Lakes are highly elliptical, while basins have more complex shapes. Lake coverage (%) is fairly constant across the three subregions, while DTLB coverage decreases on older surfaces. Lake and basin size decreases on progressively older surfaces, but the number of features per unit area increases. It is uncertain if surface age is responsible for differences in regional metrics as an analysis of the Inner Coastal Plain demonstrates significant internal variation. Distance from the coast, ground ice content, surficial sediments, and local relief may also influence lake morphometry. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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