NASA Support Key to Glacier Mapping Efforts

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NASA Support Key to Glacier Mapping Efforts
Posted: September 30, 2014

Researchers at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, or CReSIS, at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, recently built detailed maps of the terrain beneath Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier and Byrd Glacier in Antarctica.

Jakobshavn Glacier is of interest because it is the fastest-moving glacier in the world and drains about 7.5 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Having a map of Jakobshavn’s bed has been a long-time goal of glaciologists. Byrd Glacier is also moving faster than average, but unlike many other glaciers, has been sounded in the past. Researchers mapped a previously unknown trench beneath Byrd Glacier and found that depth measurements from the 1970s were off by as much as a half mile in some places.

Imaging rock beneath glaciers like Jakobshavn is important, but more difficult than mapping the ice sheet interior. The relatively warm ice and rough surfaces of outlet glaciers weaken and scatter radar signals, making the bed difficult to detect. To overcome these challenges, CReSIS used a sensitive radar instrument with a large antenna array and used several processing techniques to remove interference and build a view of sub-ice bedrock. “We showed that we have the technology to map beds,” said Prasad Gogineni, CReSIS director.

Researchers continue to improve instrument hardware and data processing and are looking ahead to mapping more glaciers in the future, which will likely involve small, unmanned aerial vehicles. “Improving ice sheet models means we need even finer resolution,” Gogineni said. “To do this we need lines flown much closer together, which small UAVs would be well suited for.”

"NASA Supports Key to Glacier Mapping Efforts"  published Sept. 29 by NASA.

 

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