Remote Sensing

Satellite and aircraft remote sensing provides the ability to measure and monitor elements of the cryosphere on a continuous basis and with much better spatial coverage than field or in situ measurements. This is particularly true for the harsh and difficult-to-access environment of the polar regions.  Radar interferometry techniques developed at the Polar Science Center (PSC) provide measurements of the speed with which glaciers flow.  PSC researchers have also discovered that by combining satellite data from the GRACE and ICESat missions with in situ measurements of ocean bottom pressure, amazing new insights into the variability of the Arctic Ocean can be obtained.

In The News

Selected Projects

  • Total Antarctic Ice Sheet Discharge: an IPY Benchmark Data Set

    We are employing new remote sensing methods applied to multiple satellite data sets to measure the total discharge of ice from the grounded Antarctic Ice Sheet. This effort also will provide the most comprehensive mapping ever of the grounding line position, as well as ice thickness and velocity along and in the vicinity of the grounding line. These products are sensitive indicators of changes and will serve as benchmark data sets of the International Polar Year suitable for subsequent comparisons to identify and quantify future changes in the ice sheet.

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  • Antarctic Ice Shelf Change and Basal Melt Using ICESat, Cryosat, and Other Satellite Data

    Deeply embayed ice shelves and narrower fringing ice shelves surround much of Antarctica. Recent results indicate that these ice shelves help regulate the flow of upstream glaciers and ice streams (“ice-shelf buttressing”). This investigation focuses on determining the mass balance of Antarctica’s non-Peninsula ice shelves and on improving our knowledge of the processes that control basal melt.

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  • TOVS Polar Pathfinder Path-P Project

    The purpose of this project is to improve satellite retrievals of atmospheric temperature, humidity and clouds.  Retrievals are based on   the physical-statistical retrieval method of Chedin et al. (1985, Improved Iteration Inversion Algorithm, 3I). The method has been improved for use in sea ice-covered areas (Francis 1994) and the data set has been designed to address the particular needs of the Polar research community. The data set represents the so called Path-P as designated by the TOVS Science Working Group.

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Selected Publications

  • Kwok, R., S. Farrell, R. Forsberg, K. Giles, S. Laxon, D. McAdoo, J. Morison, L. Padman, C. Peralta-Ferriz, A. Proshutinsky, and M. Steele,’ Combining satellite altimetry, time-variable gravity, and bottom pressure observations to understand the Arctic Ocean: A transformative opportunity’, Proceedings of the OceanObs09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society Conference, Venice, Italy, 21-25 September 2009, Hall, J., Harrison D.E. and Stammer, D., Eds., 2, ESA Publication WPP-30, 2010.

  • Smith, B.E., Fricker, H.A., Joughin, I.R.., and S. Tulaczyk, ‘An inventory of active subglacial lakes in Antarctica detected by ICESat (2003-2008)’, J. Glaciology, 55(192), 573-595, 2009.

  • Morison, J., J. Wahr, R. Kwok, and C. Peralta-Ferriz,’ Recent trends in Arctic Ocean mass distribution revealed by GRACE’, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L07602, doi:10.1029/2006GL029016, 2007.

  • Joughin, I., J. L. Bamber, T. Scambos, S. Tulaczyk, M. Fahnestock, and D. R. MacAyeal,’ Integrating satellite observations with modeling: basal shear stress of the Filcher-Ronne ice streams’, Antarctica, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc., A 364, 1795-1814, 2006.

  • Schweiger, A. J., R. W. Lindsay, J. A. Francis, J. Key, J. M. Intrieri, and M. D. Shupe, “Validation of TOVS Path-P data during SHEBA“, J. Geophys. Res.,C., 107(10), SHE 17-11 – 17-20, 2002.