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Synthetic aperture radar detection of the snowline on Commonwealth and Howard Glaciers, Taylor Valley, Antarctica

  • Patrick Bardel (a1), Andrew G. Fountain (a1), Dorothy K. Hall (a2) and Ron Kwok (a3)

Abstract

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images of Taylor Valley, Antarctica, were acquired in January 1999 in coordination with ground-based measurements to assess SAR detection of the snowline on dry polar glaciers. We expected significant penetration of the radar wave resulting in an offset of the SAR-detected snowline relative to the true snowline. Results indicated no detectable displacement of the SAR snowline. Snow depths of 15 cm over ice can be detected on the imagery. We hypothesize that the optical depth of thin snowpacks is enhanced by reflection and refraction of the radar beam by internal snow layers. The enhanced optical depth increases the volume scattering, and thereby enhances backscatter sufficiently to be detected by the SAR. Consequently, SAR imagery may be used directly to image the position of transient snowlines in dry polar regions.

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References

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