Ice shelves are important regions to observe because they are likely to be sensitive indicators of climatic change. The satellite-borne radar altimetry is highly suited to ice-shelf monitoring; experience with Seasat, which flew in 1978, has demonstrated that a height-measurement precision of the order of 1 m can be obtained over ice surfaces (Brooks and Others 1983).
We identify subtle changes in altimeter wave forms associated with crevassed zones and the grounding line. Normal retracking procedures are shown to be inadequate in detecting such changes, and so methods which provide sensitive indication of the presence of these features in the sampled areas are devised. By ranging to the first return in the echo, the grounding line is identified, and by differencing this measurement with the half-peak power range, a measure of surface roughness is obtained which can be used to detect crevassed zones.
Detection of crevassed shear zones allows delimitation of distinct zones of flow in the ice shelf which can be monitored by future altimeter missions. Monitoring of the grounding-line position can provide sensitive indication of mass-balance conditions over the grounded part of the drainage basin.