Gigapixel Imagery of Glacier National Park
The above image is interactive. Place your mouse on the image to zoom in or out to see more detail.
View and dynamically explore high resolution gigapixel images of Glacier National Park with GigaPan panoramas taken by CCME staff. This collection of images serves as landscape documentation and as an interactive forum for public exploration of Glacier National Park’s changing landscapes. Search “ccme” at http://gigapan.org
Gigapixel photography is rapidly emerging as a new medium in the world of visual arts. This high resolution imagery is also being employed by a diverse array of scientific disciplines such as archeology, space exploration, ecology, and resource management. In Glacier National Park, MT, the USGS Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems (CCME) program has begun using gigapixel imagery to enhance information transfer about climate change to diverse audiences and to vividly document glacier recession . While the use of other visual mediums like repeat photographs have proven to be an effective means to communicate the pace and scope of climate change, the interactive gigapixel images have the power to engage viewers in exploration and link them to data and information.
The GigaPan system is a robotically controlled camera mount that controls the movement and shutter release during a panorama shoot. Once the operator programs the extent of the desired panorama, a microprocessor then calculates the size and number of exposures to accommodate the necessary image overlap and robotically moves the camera and depresses the shutter release. The multiple high resolution photographs, (e.g. 800) are digitally stitched with post production software into one large merged image and served online at GigaPan.org as a gigapixel panorama. The CCME program has been using the GigaPan system to create gigapixel panoramas since 2008.
GigaPan use in climate change studies
Glacier National Park, a region with sensitive resources and ecosystems, is experiencing an extension of days above freezing as well as increasing annual average temperatures, nearly 1.8 times the global average. Effects of these climatic shifts are most obvious in the recession of the park’s iconic glaciers. The Gigapan camera system is being used to capture high-resolution, panoramic images of alpine glaciers in the park, which can be zoomed into at great detail, georeferenced in Google Earth, and embedded in websites. By establishing repeat GigaPan locations in glacier basins, the CCME program will begin high resolution documentation of these landscapes undergoing rapid change. Quantitative analysis of both ice coverage and vegetation establishment will be possible as photo comparisons become available over time. Other possible uses for gigapixel photography by CCME include:
- Landscape documentation – baseline photography
- Document glacier recession/vegetation establishment with repeat GigaPans
- Document alpine treeline expansion
- Document avalanche path dynamics
- Enhance website, outreach, and education efforts
- Communicate climate science to expanded audiences
- Increase public engagement – citizen science applications
- Creation of art to communicate science
Pederson, G.T., L.J. Graumlich, D.B. Fagre, T. Kipfer and C.C. Muhlfeld. 2009. A century of climate and ecosystem change in Western Montana: what do temperature trends portend?. Climatic Change 96: DOI 10.1007/s10584-009-9642-y, 22pp.
Frenkel, 2010, Panning for Science Science 5 November 2010: 748-749.DOI:10.1126/science.330.6005.748
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