EGU24-12105, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Unleashing the archive of aerial photographs of Iceland, 1945-2000. Applications in geosciences 

Joaquín M. C. Belart1, Sydney Gunnarson1, Etienne Berthier2, Amaury Dehecq3, Tómas Jóhannesson4, Hrafnhildur Hannesdóttir4, and Kieran Baxter5
Joaquín M. C. Belart et al.
  • 1National Land Survey of Iceland, Akranes, Iceland
  • 2Université de Toulouse, LEGOS (CNES/CNRS/IRD/UT3), Toulouse, France
  • 3IGE, Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble INP, Grenoble, France
  • 4Icelandic Meteorological Office, Reykjavík, Iceland
  • 5University of Iceland's Research Centre in Hornafjörður, Höfn, Iceland

The archive of historical aerial photographs of Iceland consists of ~140,000 vertical aerial photographs acquired between the years 1945 and 2000. It contains an invaluable amount of information about human and natural changes in the landscape of Iceland. We have developed a series of automated processing workflows for producing accurate orthomosaics and Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) from these aerial photographs, which we’re making openly available in a data repository and a web map visualization service. The workflow requires two primary inputs: a modern orthomosaic to automatically extract Ground Control Points (GCPs) and an accurate DEM for a fine-scale (sub-meter) alignment of the historical datasets. We evaluated the accuracy of the DEMs by comparing them in unchanged terrain against accurate recent lidar and Pléiades-based DEMs, and we evaluated the accuracy of the orthomosaics by comparing them against Pléiades-based orthomosaics. The data are becoming available at To show the potential applications of this repository, we present the following showcases where these data reveal significant changes the landscape in Iceland in the past 80 years: (1) volcanic eruptions (Askja 1961, Heimaey 1973 and the Krafla eruptions, 1975-1984), (2) decadal changes of Múlajökull glacier from 1960-2023, (3) Landslides (Steinsholtsjökull 1967, Tungnakvíslarjökull 1945-present) and (4) coastal erosion (Surtsey island).

How to cite: Belart, J. M. C., Gunnarson, S., Berthier, E., Dehecq, A., Jóhannesson, T., Hannesdóttir, H., and Baxter, K.: Unleashing the archive of aerial photographs of Iceland, 1945-2000. Applications in geosciences , EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-12105,, 2024.