Wetlands and shallow, freshwater lakes are common on the Alaskan North Slope, a permafrost-dominated coastal plain above the Arctic Circle. New approaches are needed to augment traditional remote sensing and ground-based field activities that would enable rapid and accurate discrimination of wetlands from uplands and estimation of lake depths and volumes over areas being considered for exploration and production activities. Using a new airborne lidar instrument that combines laser ranging at near-infrared wavelengths for topography and green wavelengths for bathymetry, we flew a pilot study over a 490-km2 area south of Prudhoe Bay to measure surface topography at a density of about 20 points/m2 and water-body depths at a density of about 2 points/m2. High-resolution digital elevation models, having vertical accuracies of a few centimeters, have been generated from the topographic laser data.

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