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ITR/SI+AP: A Mobile Sensor Web for Polar Ice Sheet Measurements — Project Abstract



Lead Institution:

  • University of Kansas

Partner Institutions:

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Ohio State University
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Chicago
  • U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (USA CRREL)
  • Haskell Indian Nations University

International Participation:

  • University of Copenhagen
  • Alfred-Wegener Institute (Bremerhaven)
  • University of Bristol (UK)
  • Antarctic CRC and Australian Antarctic Division


  • NASA

Sea level has been rising over the last century. Although the immediate impact of sea-level rise may be less severe than other effects of global climate change, the long-term consequences can be much more devastating since nearly 60% of the world population lives in coastal regions.

Scientists have postulated that excess water is being released from polar ice sheets due to long-term, global climate change, but there are insufficient data to confirm these theories. Understanding the interactions between the ice sheets, oceans, and atmosphere is essential to quantifying the role of ice sheets in sea-level rise. Toward that end, this research project involves the innovative application of information technology in the development and deployment of intelligent radar sensors for measuring key glaciological parameters.

Radar instrumentation will consist of a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that can operate in bistatic or monostatic mode. One important application of the SAR will be in the determination of basal conditions, particularly the presence and distribution of basal water. Basal water lubricates the ice/bed interface, enhancing flow, and increasing the amount of ice discharged into the ocean. Another application of the SAR will be to measure ice thickness and map internal layers in both shallow and deep ice. Information on near-surface internal layers will be used to estimate the average, recent accumulation rate, while the deeper layers provide a history of past accumulation and flow rates.

A tracked vehicle and an automated snowmobile will be used to test and demonstrate the utility of an intelligent radar in glaciological investigations. The system will be developed to collect, process and analyze data in real time and in conjunction with a priori information derived from archived sources. The combined real time and archived information will be used onboard the vehicles to select and generate an optimum sensor configuration. This project thus involves innovative research in intelligent systems, sounding radars and ice sheet modeling. In addition it has a very strong public outreach and education program, which include near-real-time image broadcasts via the world wide web.

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