Thaw-Season InSAR Surface Displacements and Frost Susceptibility Mapping to Support Community-Scale Planning in Ilulissat, West Greenland

Johanna Scheer*, Rafael Caduff, Penelope How, Marco Marcer, Tazio Strozzi, Annett Bartsch, Thomas Ingeman-Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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In permafrost regions, ground surface deformations induced by freezing and thawing threaten the integrity of the built environment. Mapping the frost susceptibility of the ground at a high spatial resolution is of practical importance for the construction and planning sectors. We processed Sentinel-1 Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data from thawing seasons 2015 to 2019, acquired over the area of Ilulissat, West Greenland. We used a least-squares inversion scheme to retrieve the average seasonal displacement (S) and long-term deformation rate (R). We secondly investigated two different methods to extrapolate active layer thickness (ALT) measurements, based on their statistical relationship with remotely sensed surface characteristics. A generalized linear model (GLM) was first implemented, but the model was not able to fit the data and represent the ALT spatial variability over the entire study domain. ALT were alternatively averaged per vegetation class, using a land cover map derived by supervised classification of Sentinel-2 images. We finally estimated the active layer ice content and used it as a proxy to map the frost susceptibility of the ground at the community scale. Fine-grained sedimentary basins in Ilulissat were typically frost susceptible and subject to average seasonal downward displacements of 3 to 8 (Formula presented.). Areas following a subsiding trend of up to 2.6 (Formula presented.) were likely affected by permafrost degradation and melting of ground ice below the permafrost table. Our approach enabled us to identify frost-susceptible areas subject to severe seasonal deformations, to long-term subsidence induced by degrading permafrost, or to both. Used in combination with traditional site investigations, InSAR maps provide valuable information for risk management and community planning in the Arctic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3310
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number13
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

This research was conducted as part of the AALM4INFRAM (Arctic Active Layer Monitoring for Infrastructure Management) project funded by an ESA EO For Society grant (grant number 4000128395/19/I-DT) and by the Nunataryuk project funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 773421.


  • InSAR
  • Permafrost
  • Active layer
  • Arctic infrastructure
  • Ice content


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